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little Caesar of the 
Nelson [1958] 



By German E. Ornes 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 
CARIBBEAN STORM CENTER (in preparation) 


Little Caesar of the Caribbean 




, 1958, German E. Ornes 

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Conventions. Published 
in New York by Thomas Nelson & Sons and simultaneously in Toronto, Canada, 
by Thomas Nelson & Sons (Canada), Limited. 

Library of Congress Catalog Card No.: 58-9038 



Whose drive, perseverance, 

courage and loyalty 
made this book possible 



plete one on the oldest, harshest and most fiendish personal dictatorship in 
today's Latin America. Yet it is a long book, longer than I anticipated when 
more than two years ago I began to do intensive research on the dean of the 
"strong men" of the Western World the Dominican Republic's General- 
issimo and Benefactor Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina. 

At the end of the process I found that I had written two full volumes in- 
stead of one and there was still much to be included. This is the first of these 
two volumes. The second covers the external aspects and ramifications of 
the Trujillo regime its intrigues, crimes and shameless lobbying in foreign 
lands, including the United States; its high-pressure methods of publicity 
and advertisement; its friends and foes all over the world. 

The process of selecting and above all of abridging the material for 
these volumes was further complicated by the fact that Trujillo is not typical, 
either as a man or as a dictator. He does not seem to have a definite, rounded 
personality nor does he adhere to any political philosophy. As a man, he is 
totally unpredictable and as a politician his motivating impulses are self- 
deification, expediency and opportunism at the service of a single clear 
purpose: the search for and safekeeping of power for power's sake. 

Trujillo's great accomplishments and most celebrated feats, all well adver- 
tised as the embodiment of patriotism and selfless dedication to the welfare 
of the Fatherland, are difficult to appraise accurately since they are always 
surrounded by an almost impenetrable fog of lies and deceit. It may truth- 
fully be said that although Trujillo and his propagandists speak with much 
fire and conviction of patriotism and other lofty principles, the General- 
issimo's long sustained sway over the Dominican people adds up to one of 
the most brazen swindles ever perpetrated against a nation. 

Moreover, these are only part of the difficulties one confronts when writing 


a book on Trujillo. Others are the scarcity of reliable documentation on the 
man and his background; the cloud of censorship which hangs over all his 
actions and motivations and, last but not least, the all-pervading fright that 
shakes the hearts and paralyzes the tongues of those who know about the 
all-powerful, revengeful despot. 

All in all, this document is not a treatise of political philosophy or a 
sociological anatomy of the most durable of Latin American satrapies, nor 
do I venture to advance solutions of the tragic Dominican ordeal. It is not 
the definite analysis of dictatorship I would like it to be. It is plain, unadul- 
terated journalism. It reflects, however, a sincere effort to give an accurate 
picture of life and death in the Dominican Republic under the iron grip of 
the dean of the "Free World's" dictators. 

In writing this book I have tried to detach myself as much as possible 
from my personal problems. When I cite my own experiences it is only be- 
cause I consider them relevant to the narration or because being easier to 
document and always typical of what happens to Dominicans during the 
"Era of Trujillo" it is convenient for me to use them to illustrate a point. 

Yet behind every book there is a reason. 

During my adult life I have traveled the entire road open to a Dominican, 
especially one of those who can be properly called children of the dictator- 
ship I was only eleven when Trujillo assumed power in that faraway 
period when Herbert Hoover was still President of the United States. 

I underwent the full treatment. Reacting against the evils of dictatorship in 
my student days, I rebelled and tried to fight. I suffered imprisonment and 
social and economic ostracism. Due to my own weakness or the strength of 
the adversary I eventually succumbed, as do most Dominicans living within 
the country and many who live outside. I was "broken in" and became an 
active collaborator of the regime. 

Freedom, in the long run, is a pretty indestructible instinct. Finally, there 
was enough reserve energy in me to reassert the dormant passion for emanci- 
pation, and new desires of liberty were awakened. This did not happen over- 
night, of course. It was the end-product of quite a long process in which 
several factors and influences were instrumental in shaping the decisive 
course. To my own principles were added the principles of my courageous 
and highly idealistic wife, Diane, as well as the guidance of the Inter Amer- 
ican Press Association with which I maintained uninterrupted contact during 
the years preceding my breakaway from the poisonous Dominican environ- 

When I left the Dominican Republic in 1955 Trujillo was at the summit 
of his power. He was stronger and more influential than ever before. The 
dictator did not kick me out. I chose to leave wealth and social and political 
prestige for the uncertain world of exile under one compulsion: that of my 
own inner conscience and my longings for freedom and dignity. After finally 


disentangling myself from Trujillo's web, and being thoroughly familiar with 
the prevailing Dominican system by personal experience, I felt it was time 
to undertake the task of writing this book. 

To thank the collaborators in this case could be dangerous, not for the 
author but for the recipients of his gratitude. Therefore, I content myself 
with a general expression of gratitude to all who helped me. However, there 
are a few persons who, quite courageously, have never hidden their direct 
or indirect help in this project. Their names should be mentioned. 

First and foremost, I want to thank my wife. When we finally found a 
courageous publishing house willing to meet Trujillo's challenge, she pro- 
vided me with the needed incentives to almost meet the deadline. To her 
loyalty and her devotion to the cause of the Dominican people I owe much 
of the peace of mind that I now enjoy. 

Second, I must mention my editor. It is said that no writer is ever complete 
without a good editor. Mr. Gorham Munson without discarding my own 
words or betraying a single one of my thoughts made readable copy out of 
my imperfect English. 

Finally, I want to convey my gratitude to Mr. Angel Ramos, publisher of 
El Mundo, of San Juan, Puerto Rico. He not only offered me a position on 
the staff of his newspaper when I was already tainted as "controversial" by 
the persistent trujillista propaganda, but later, when he heard that I had 
found a publisher for a book I was writing, gave me what was tantamount 
to a paid leave of absence without even asking me about the contents of the 
book. To this day he does not know what I say here. 


Santurce, Puerto Rico 
February 25, 1958 











































twenty-seven years of a totalitarian dictatorship this is not easily discerni- 
ble. For the most part, rank-and-file Dominicans are content to keep their 
eyes on their jobs and off political affairs. They look healthy, well-fed, well- 
clad and fairly competent. However, they do not have, nor do they expect 
to have, a voice in the conduct of the national affairs, which are run by 
Rafael L. Trajillo and his hand-picked lieutenants as they please. In poli- 
tics, Dominicans are either uninformed, indifferent or scared. 

Under a misleading surface of seeming peace and quiet, terror runs its 
red threads through the fabric of Dominican society. The cancer of fear 
gnaws at the vitals of the people and affects with paralyzing force every 
human activity. High tension, despair and a sense of impending danger are 
dominant aspects of the social situation. 

Dominicans fear one another and are in mortal dread of foreigners. 
They suspect their servants, doubt their friends. They fear denuncia- 
tion; they have the spooky feeling of being constantly watched; they 
dread the shattering, harsh decrees and the mesh of regulations that, in 
totalitarian style, prescribe their course from cradle to grave. 

Last but not least, Dominicans fear the ever-present, far-reaching, vin- 
dictive and implacable hands of "the Big One'* "The Chief" Generalis- 
simo Doctor Rafael Leonidas Trajillo Molina, Benefactor of the Father- 
land and Father of the New Fatherland. "One thing that impresses the 
visitor to the Dominican Republic," wrote Robert M. Hallett, Latin Ameri- 
can Editor of the Christian Science Monitor, "is the fact that whenever 
anyone mentions the Generalissimo in critical terms even if the speaker 
is a foreigner the tone of voice immediately drops, and a conspiratorial 
air is given the whole conversation," Another American reporter, Milton 
Bracker of the New York Times, stated that "diplomats are reluctant to 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 4 

discuss the regime while in rooms at the luxurious Jaragua or El Ernba- 
jador hotels. Sound-recording systems are feared even where they cannot 
be proved to be in operation." 

A whole generation of Dominicans has been brought up without know- 
ing the meaning of permanence and inner security. The only thing perma- 
nent seems to be the dictatorship, all else being mutable and provisional, 
in accordance with the Benefactor's whims. For Dominicans only two 
words have definite meaning: uncertainty and terror. 

A monopoly of force is in the hands of the dictator and everyone is 
aware of his readiness to employ it. Force has been used so effectively in 
the past, that to keep his subjects submissive Trujillo no longer needs to 
turn loose in the streets the storm troopers of La 42 or the "Veterans" 
(the dreaded gangs of thugs employed to murder the Generalissimo's op- 
ponents in earlier days of the regime), nor is it likely that there are jails 
or concentration camps teeming with political inmates. 

Nevertheless, terror, one of the main weapons of the regime, has been 
applied so successfully that Dominicans feel they cannot escape "the 
Big One." They feel as though living on the flanks of a live volcano. 

Under the circumstances the characteristic signs of the Dominicans are 
the scared look, the mask-like face, the hush-hush voice. People are care- 
ful not to utter an unguarded word against the regime. They are on watch 
against the indiscreet gesture, the tell-tale smile, A man entering a night- 
club at a moment when the orchestra is not playing feels that he is cross- 
ing the threshold into a big, neatly ordered temple dedicated to the cult of 
silence. As Time once pointed out; "After a quarter-century of ruthless 
policing, the Dominican Republic is the land of the poker face." 

No one stands before the Dominican tyrant in full human stature. 
Abasement is so thoroughly practiced that when Trujillo appears in public 
each citizen must remove his hat, place it over his heart and bow Ms head. 
Probably that is the reason why so many Dominicans go out bareheaded. 

The lowering of moral standards is evident in all phases of Dominican 
life. The foremost outward sign of Dominican "morality" is at present 
a love of gain an inordinate fondness for profitable business or govern- 
ment careers. The desire to get rich as fast as possible or to become one 
of the members of the small circle of favorites of the Dictator seemingly 
rules the conduct of the majority of educated Dominicans. Money appears 
to be the sole criterion of a man's social status. Therefore, even knowing 
that everything may be lost at the slightest whim of the Benefactor, every- 
one tries, regardless of the means, to acquire riches. 

Besides Trujillo's own large fortune (estimated at over $500,000,000), 
there are among the relatives and cronies of the Dictator a handful of 
people who can brag of an accumulation of several million dollars. With 
unconscious irony the American magazine International Markets, edited 


by Dun & Bradstreet, had this to say about the situation, in a Government- 
sponsored issue dedicated to the Dominican Republic: "The Generalissimo 
is a big businessman in his own right. Members of two other families, the 
Martinez's and the Alba's, are active in scores of island enterprises. Prob- 
ably the country's top private industrialist is Francisco Martinez Alba." 
What the magazine failed to say is that Martinez Alba, the head of the 
alleged two other families, is the brother of Trujillo's third wife. 

The newly rich (a class formed by high officials and military men) have 
found it obligatory to display their wealth. As a result, the country has 
entered upon a period of what Thorstein Veblen called conspicuous con- 
sumption. Trujillo's aides and relatives have built ostentatious homes that 
are too large for their own families. Their children are sent to the best 
boarding schools abroad, particularly in the United States. Their houses 
are staffed with more servants than they need, and several luxury cars 
make splendid each garage. The cars, clothes, art collections, and social 
gatherings proclaim that the new elite are the ones with the money. 

However, in spite of the glittering cars and luxurious suburban homes, 
the new aristocracy has not polished itself enough. Proofs of crudeness 
may be found in the constant public reminders to the members of the offi- 
cial elite on how to behave in society. The letters-to-the-editor section of 
the daily El Caribe is full of stories on how improperly dressed high offi- 
cials frequently attend formal functions* Trujillo himself got so incensed 
on one occasion that he wrote an anonymous letter to El Caribe, chiding 
his cabinet ministers for appearing at a formal gathering wearing white 
tie and tails minus the proper shoes. When Queen Angelita Trujillo, the 
Benefactor's eighteen-year-old daughter, was crowned in December, 1955, 
the same newspaper complained there were people who attended the ball 
improperly dressed. They forgot to wear the vests of their jracs. 

But, if they are not as well bred as they should be, Dominicans are a 
civic-minded lot. They salute the flag and listen with devotion to the na- 
tional anthem. This was not always the case. In fact, Trujillo, a great 
patriot himself, could hardly wait to take power before he started teaching 
his own noble feelings to the Dominicans. When he heard that many were 
paying no attention as the bands played the national anthem, he sent out 
a company of his well-disciplined soldiers with instructions to teach pa- 
triotism to disrespectful Dominicans. One of his American biographers 
proudly describes the excellent results of the measure, but wisely omits to 
say what happened to those caught in inattention. A further step was to 
pass a law to make certain that national holidays will be properly observed. 
Every window must now prominently display the Dominican flag on Tru- 
jillo's birthday and other patriotic occasions. 

But the trujillista way of life is not confined to wealthy upstarts. Under 
constant pressure from the new high society, the few remaining members 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 6 

of the old landed aristocracy try desperately to keep their fortunes and 
social standing intact. This requires constant adjustment as well as com- 
promise of principles, which some aristocrats have already regretted. 

For old and new classes alike, success depends on the extent to which 
they show subservience to Trujillo. Any Dominican who wishes to climb 
the political ladder must pay constant homage to Trujillo; adulation has 
been elevated to the status of a science. The deification of the Benefactor, 
under the slogan "God and Trujillo," has become a major industry. 

Under relentless press indoctrination, Dominicans have learned that 
praising the Generalissimo at every opportunity is a "must," and there is 
a permanent scramble going on not only to say more about Trujillo, but to 
say it faster than the other man. For ambitious Dominicans the indispensa- 
ble art of paying Trujillo extravagant compliments has become an ingrained 
habit, and more than one promising young man has made a career out of 
proposing new sorts of homage. But Trujillo does not seem to care about 
repetition as long as the people are kept busy making genuflexions. 

The twenty-fifth year of the Era of Trujillo (in Santo Domingo time 
is officially measured by Act of Congress from the date "the Big One" 
came to power) afforded an opportunity for the staging of a prodigiously 
successful festival of adulation. Trujillo's twenty-fifth wedding anniversary 
with the "Fatherland," "the glory" and "destiny" was a burst of triumphal 
pageantry. The years of 1955 and 1956 (officially proclaimed "The Year 
of the Benefactor") were a national orgy of government-directed abject- 
ness. No publication dared suggest the thought that the Generalissimo 
might be anything less than a divinely inspired genius. Said the newspaper 
La Nation: "Men are not indispensable. But Trujillo is irreplaceable. For 
Trujillo is not a man. He is a political force. An economic force. A social 
force ... A cosmic force . . . Those who try to compare him to his ordi- 
nary contemporaries are mistaken. He belongs to ... the category of 
those born to a special destiny." 

This self-deification drive hit a high point at the "International Fair of 
Peace and Brotherhood of the Free World," which Trujillo with uncon- 
scious irony arranged as a device to inform mankind of his anniversary. 
He spent some $40,000,000 on the Fair, which occupied a 125-acre tract 
on the outskirts of Ciudad Trujillo, the capital city, known in pre-Bene- 
factor days as Santo Domingo. The Fair consisted of seventy-nine im- 
posing buildings including a Temple of Peace, a vast Coney Island im- 
ported from the United States, a $1,000,000 Fountain of Music and 
Light, and enough effigies of the Benefactor to fill a museum. 

Angelita Trujillo, the handsome buxom brunette who is the young apple 
of the old man's eye, was groomed for her role as Queen of the Fair; and 
from the day of her proclamation and for a long time after (until criticisms 
in the foreign press caught up with the Generalissimo) she was addressed 


only as Her Majesty. She was crowned with a diamond-studded gold 
crown that many real sovereigns might envy. At official ceremonies she 
wore an $80,000 Italian gown and carried a heavily bejeweled scepter. 
This outfit was stunning in more ways than one; in a country whose per 
capita national income is $226, its cost represented the annual income of 
approximately 800 people. 

For all the fortune that was squandered on it, the Fair did not produce 
much in the way of increased tourist trade. In its first seven months of 
operation it attracted only 24,000 tourists, though 500,000 were expected. 
Although great sums of money were spent in publicizing the event in for- 
eign countries, it excited a good deal less attention than some other aspects 
of the Trujillo regime. Of course, not everything was a failure at the Fair, 
There were some happy results. According to the Foreign Agriculture 
Service of the United States: "Undoubtedly stimulated by the Dominican 
International Fair . . . baby chicks for broiler production are being im- 
ported from the United States in unprecedented numbers." 

"The Year of the Benefactor" was finally over, but every day is still 
loyalty day for some sector of Dominican society. One day the chiefs of 
the armed forces or the labor leaders gather before the cameras; the next 
day, it is the dentists; then the rice growers or the foreign colony or the 
university students. At parades, rallies, masses, all sorts of new honors 
scrolls, medals, collars (of which he is inordinately fond), honorary de- 
grees, titles are presented to "The Chief." These seemingly voluntary 
affairs come in waves, either to celebrate a new glorious feat of the illus- 
trious and peerless statesman or to endorse a new policy or attack against 
the enemies of the regime. 

It is not enough to pay homage to Trujillo personally. Every function 
must include something in honor of Trujillo's parents. Either a floral 
tribute for the late father's tomb or a visit to his living mother. Practically 
every day Dominican newspapers print touching photographs of one dele- 
gation of citizens or another surrounding the old lady. In addition to the 
kind face of the Excelsa Matrona (the Most High lady), a feature com- 
mon to all the photographs is a big flower basket in the center. 

Slogans such as "God and Trujillo," "Trujillo Forever," "Trujillo Is My 
Protector," "All I Have I Owe to Trujillo," "Long Live Trujillo," "We 
Will Always Follow Trujillo," adorn public and private buildings, for- 
tresses, pushcarts, and even shoeshine boxes. Every public building, every 
store, practically every home, must hang pictures of the Generalissimo and 
Ms little brother Hector the present President of the Dominican Republic. 
(Some far-seeing people display as well the photograph of Trujillo's elder 
son, Lieutenant General Rafael Leonidas "Ramfis" Trujillo Martinez.) 

The pictures are carefully exhibited in the most public places. A fa- 
miliar sight is the bronze plaque, with Trujillo's picture in colors, which 

TRUIILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 8 

can be found in every hotel lobby, restaurant and in most private homes. 
The plaque reads on one side: "In this place Trujillo is the chief"; and on 
the other: "National Symbols: Rectitude, Liberty, Work and Morality." 
The existence of such a plaque is odd enough in itself, but what few visi- 
tors to the country know is that this "national symbol" is another of Tru- 
jillo's businesses they sell for $30 and bring in a nice bit of revenue to 
Ferreteria Read C. por A., the hardware concern owned by Mrs. Rafael L. 
Trujillo, which issues them on an or else basis. However, recent rumor is 
that when it became common knowledge that the wholesale cost of the 
plaque, manufactured in Mexico, was less than $2, the Ferreteria gave 
way to public opinion and lowered the price. Merchants must pay in cash, 
but other people may acquire the plaque on credit: "hang it now, pay later." 

During 1955 and 1956 the automobile license plates reminded people 
of the act of Congress christening the period "The Year of the Benefactor*" 
Some willing drivers added a smaller plate with Viva Trujillo. 

The missing Basque scholar Dr. Jesus de Galindez a personal witness 
to this process of moral disintegration pointed out in his perceptive anal- 
ysis of the regime entitled The Era of Trujillo that "at times this adulation 
becomes, unwittingly, a form of cruel irony, as in the case of the sign which 
I saw hanging over the door of the lunatic asylum in Nigua: *We owe 
everything to Trujillo!' " 

As chief vehicles for this massive brainwashing operation, the three 
Dominican dailies vie with one another in singing Trujillo's praises. Read- 
ing their daily offerings people get the impression that the only reason for 
their existence is to print flowery tributes to the Genius of Peace, Hero of 
Labor and Paladin of Democracy. "The only thing worse than Trujillo's 
former contempt for democracy is his latest pose as its champion," wrote 
the American journalist and historian, Theodore Draper, in The Reporter. 
And he added: "Not merely any ordinary variety of democracy, to be 
sure, but one specially adapted to his people's needs, a Trujillista *neo- 
democracy.' He has his editorial writers compose absurdly pompous little 
essays on the superiority of his unique and inimitable political system." 

The pagan character of the adulatory pageant is further emphasized by 
a string of quasi-religious oaths daily proffered, not to God but to the 
Benefactor, by the armed forces, labor unions, government employees, 
student associations and other groups. In the face of these blasphemous 
activities in open violation of Pope Pius XFs encyclic "Non Abbiamo 
Bisognio" condemning the oath given to Mussolini by Italian fascists, the 
Church has remained mute. In fact, at every propitious opportunity the 
Pope cables cordial greetings to Trujillo. The Vatican contributed with a 
religious exposition as well as its blessings to Trujillo's jubilee. To the 
1956 Congress of Catholic Culture, held in Ciudad Trujillo under the 
Benefactor's sponsorship, Francis Cardinal Spellman brought, as the 


Pope's special representative, a warm-hearted message. Cardinal Spellman 
traveled down from New York to be triumphantly received by the Gen- 
eralissimo himself. Their cordial embraces were displayed in all Domini- 
can front pages the next day, and to cap it all a Dominican priest for- 
mally proposed, without receiving any public rebuke, that Trujillo be 
named "Benefactor of the Church." 

This account may sound like a piece of fiction lifted from a Broadway 
musical comedy on a mythical oriental kingdom, but it is no joke. These 
are the props of Dominicans' ordeal at the hands of Trujillo. They account 
for the singular order and regularity, or perhaps it should be called monot- 
ony, marking Dominican life. It also accounts for Dominicans' behavior 
in public their seriousness, quietness, and an apprehensiveness border- 
ing on somberness. 

Observers usually misinterpret the existing situation as a true mirror of 
the national character. However, those who are old enough to remember 
life before the Benefactor know the average Dominican to be hospitable, 
warm, gay and fun-loving. Even now, despite Trujillo and his police sys- 
tem, humor occasionally manages to break through. Those who have 
heard them know the jokes are good. 

The last one in hush-hush circulation, shortly before I left the country 
in 1955, was about a bus passenger, who suddenly put aside the news- 
paper he was reading and exclaimed out loud: "Damn Government!" 

The secret policeman on duty in the bus jumped up to arrest him. 
Somehow the passenger was able to explain that he had been reading 
about Argentina's dictator Juan D. Peron's persecution of Catholic priests. 
Since he was such a religious man he could not help making the objec- 
tionable remark. 

The spy, seemingly convinced, left Ms man alone. However, as the 
bus was passing in front of a police station, the informer stopped it and 
asked the newspaper reader to accompany him. The man argued he had 
already given a reasonable and quite satisfactory explanation, to which 
the spy replied: 

"Yes, but I am not convinced. I have been thinking it over all this time, 
and I'll tell you something: in this world the only one that can be called 
*Damn Government!* is ours." 

There is also the story of how Josef Stalin, Adolf Hitler and Rafael 
Trujillo each died and went to face the God who forgives all sinners. 

First to be taken to the Divine Presence was Stalin. He confessed that 
he had been a harsh man and too often a cruel one, but that he had served 
Ms notion of human welfare as best he could. And the Lord, so the story 
goes, arose and shook Stalin's hand and said: "Go, Josef, there is a place 
here even for you." Next came Hitler with a similar story, and the Lord 
rose and shook his hand and tendered him the same mercy. 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 10 

Rafael Trujillo came last. He said that he had owned a small country, 
one perhaps beneath his talents; but he had done what he could with it. 
The Lord sat in His chair and forgave Trujillo and waved him on. 

As the Benefactor departed, Saint Peter turned to the throne and re- 
marked: "Lord, there is one thing I do not quite understand. You forgave 
all three knaves; but you rose and shook hand only with Stalin and Hitler. 
You sat and waved Trujillo past. Why, oh Lord, did you not rise?" 

The Lord answered: "My son, if I had risen only a split second to 
shake that rascal's hand, he would have taken my throne from me." 

In addition to the secret humorists, there are secret cynics who, though 
placed high in government positions, speak with tongue in cheek, but most 
of the Dominicans behave with a disturbing sense of duty and acceptance. 
People seem to take their permanent humiliation for granted and the great 
majority sing in the chorus with shocking alacrity. Some, it is true, pri- 
vately condemn the tyranny, terror and corruption of the regime, but when 
asked what they propose to do about it they simply shrug their shoulders. 


Republic who, in one way or the other, has not collaborated with the 
Trujillo regime; but subservience, whatever its advantages, is not per se a 
fully satisfactory solution. 

Woe betide anyone who indulges in the slightest criticism of the regime, 
but even to be left alone it is not enough for a person to demonstrate on 
aU occasions that he is a proven follower of the dictator. A man's fortune 
is absolutely dependent on the Generalissimo's caprices, and the history of 
the past twenty-seven years is full of examples of government, business 
and professional careers rained overnight for no apparent reason other 
than a gust of the Benefactor's wrath. When this happens, the wreckage 
is total. 

Since adulation must be the paramount concern of all Dominicans, no 
gathering is permitted not even a birthday party without the partici- 
pants showing appreciation for Trujillo, In August 1955 a group of lawyers 
from Santiago, second largest city of the country, gave at the local Matum 
Hotel a testimonial dinner to a distinguished colleague, Dr. Federico C. 
Alvarez, who had completed forty years in the profession. The gathering 
had no political significance, but in accordance with the rules its organ- 
izers cleared the matter with the local authorities and even invited a large 
group of high government officials. There were in all about 110 guests, 
including legislators and jurists. 

Two of the after dinner speakers, the toastmaster, Dr. Eduardo 


chez Cabral, and the guest of honor himself, committed the grave mistake 
of not mentioning the Benefactor's name nor Ms glorious achievements 
during their orations. Worst of all, no one shot them on the spot. The 
omission was not overlooked, however, by an attending high priest of the 
regime, Senator Nicolas Sosa, who on the same night wrote a lengthy re- 
port informing the Generalissimo of the scandalous oversight. 

Sosa's report found its way to El Caribe where, except for its heading 
and signature, it was fully printed in the letters to the editor section. 
Within a few hours all the attending government employees about two 
score had lost their jobs. The resignations of two senators and several 
deputies were accepted by Congress. 

This proved to be only the warm-up. Within the next few days the 
whole matter grew in noise and turbulence, becoming an immense public 
issue. Under Trujillo's personal direction, newspaper editorials, employing 
most pungent words, assailed the guests of the fateful dinner. 

Perhaps the most bitter attack was leveled, in two front-page editorials 
of El Caribe, against Trujillo's old crony and sometime adviser, Senator 
Rafael Vidal, reportedly the mastermind of "The Chiefs" successful bid 
for power in 1930. What seemingly enraged Trujillo in Vidal's case was 
that his former favorite neither spoke up for him nor reported, as Sosa 
did, the intolerable outrage of silencing his august name. 

Trujillo had no qualms about letting people know what had enraged 
him. "Unjustifiable Omission" was the headline he himself chose to run 
over a series of letters written by hand-picked aides. The literary output 
on the subject was enhanced by a number of abject letters of recantation 
by the people under fire. They all admitted guilt and begged for mercy. 

Both the accusatory letters and their answers were not lacking in comical 
overtones. Sanchez Cabral was called a "drunk." Vidal was reminded of 
his "Negro blood" in a country where in social relations there is no color 
line. But the best ones were reserved for Federico Nina, one of the resign- 
ing members of Congress, who had particularly displeased "the Big One." 
Nina had tried to lessen his guilt by asserting he had arrived late at the 
dinner and therefore had not heard the outrageous speeches. Had he been 
there, he stated, he would have undertaken the defense of the Benefactor. 
(By this time a man reading a Dominican newspaper without any back- 
ground knowledge might have gathered the impression that someone had 
actually proffered insulting words against the beloved Generalissimo.) 
Nina complained as well that he had heard of his resignation from Con- 
gress when a friend told him that at a party in his home town of San 
Pedro de Macoris the local Governor had celebrated the "election" of 
his successor. It did not take long for Nina to be publicly rebuked. He 
was called a "liar" and a "prematurely born baby" (sietemedno) on ac- 
count of his short height and frail constitution. 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 12 

Then newspapers reported a cheering crowd of 50,000 at a rally held 
in Santiago to right the wrong committed against "The Chief." The group 
of speakers, headed by the current Vice President, Dr. Joaquin Balaguer, 
spared no words to chide the offenders. 

For weeks the big huff went on. Next on the schedule was a stage- 
managed, Moscow-style, public purge. A "Tribunal of Honor" of the 
Partido Dominicano (the sole Dominican political party to which all 
present at the memorable banquet belonged) was called to pass judgment 
upon the accused's conduct. The newspapers enjoyed a field day reporting 
the trial's opening. Pages were filled with pictures of the proceedings and 
lengthy accounts of the bewildering pattern of self-accusations, recantations 
and shocking lies that marked the first hearing. The second day a curtain 
of silence fell upon the press. Not a single line was printed that day, and 
for that matter any other day, on the "Affair of the Matum." For all prac- 
tical purposes it had never happened as a news story; and therefore, it 
was never mentioned again. The general public was left only with the 
grapevine to feed them the results of the formerly widely-publicized trial. 

What happened to warrant such a blackout? It is not quite clear yet, 
but it seems that when Federico C. Alvarez' wantonly adulatory defense 
speech at the trial was brought to Trujillo's attention he decided to act 
with even-handed justice. He gave Alvarez a medal as well as a high gov- 
ernment office, disbarred the still only half-heartedly repentant Sanchez 
Cabral, ordered a severe reprimand for the defendants not on his pay 
roll, and deprived membership in the Partido Dominicano to those who 
had been high government officials. A large group of prominent Domini- 
cans thus became ineligible to work for the Government and unable to 
obtain passports, certificates of good conduct, or any other of the many 
licenses necessary to conduct business of any sort. 

Generous as he is, the Generalissimo, after receiving enough letters of 
recantation, lifted the sanctions imposed on the ousted former collabora- 
tors. The last to be pardoned was Vidal, but even he now sits again in 
Congress as a member of the lower chamber. 

If further proof is needed that even silence may on occasion be sub- 
versive, less than two years later, in April 1957, another unjustifiable 
omission received wide publicity. This time Trujillo's own private secre- 
tary, the poet Ram6n Emilio Jimenez, wrote a scorching article in El 
Caribe to take exception to the maiden speech of a new member of the 
Dominican Academy of History, Dr. Guido Despradel Batista, who was 
charged with the grave sin of ignoring in his essay which dealt with the 
actions of the founders of the Dominican Republic the patriotic deeds 
of the Benefactor. Consequently, Despradel lost not only his newly earned 
Academic post but his other paid posts in Government. A resolution passed 
by the Municipal Council disavowed him as a native son of the town of 


La Vega. Today he may or may not be restored to the good graces of 
"The Chief." 

Whatever its outward ridiculous appearance, the real significance of this 
remarkable incident must be found in its connection with the underlying 
ramifications of a subtle campaign now under way to whitewash Trujillo's 
character as a wilful collaborator during the American military occupation 
between 1916 and 1924. As a result, a thorough rewrite of Dominican 
history is being performed, primarily by the Academy of History. 

As a political weapon alteration of history has been practiced by almost 
every self -perpetuating modern dictatorship rewriting is part of the well- 
known technique of the "big lie." But nowhere, except perhaps in Orwell's 
1984, has this been so boldly done as in the Dominican Republic. An Orwell- 
like act of Congress, passed in August 1955, makes a criminal offender of 
anyone whose writings or speeches fall into disagreement with the historical 
"truth" as set down by the trujillista Academy of History. 

Hence, when the Academy says that in 1920 patriotic-minded young 
Lieutenant Trujillo ordered military honors for the Dominican flag in the 
town of El Seibo, no one may ask why this piece of "historical truth" was 
not unearthed before 1955. Nor may any one ask "how come?" if the 
would-be Benefactor was not obeying orders to do so, he was not court- 
martialed or even reprimanded afterwards for flagrant public breach of 
military discipline. This sort of thing might explain why people who show 
so blatant a disregard for the Benefactor as to omit his exalted name in a 
speech dealing with one-hundred-year-old happenings, as Despradel did, 
are not welcomed among the guardians of the historical party-line. 

The remorseless meat grinder of Dominican politics touches everything 
in the country, including beauty contests. The election of Carnival queens 
has always been the occasion for installing in power the newest of Tru- 
jillo's favorite girl friends. The custom was somewhat modified, however, 
after Mrs. Trujillo clamped down on it. Lina Lovaton, a high society girl 
elected Queen of the Carnival in 1937, came closer than anyone else to 
wrest the throne from the First Lady. It was only after a long desperate 
struggle that Mrs. Trujillo retained her place in the Generalissimo's heart 
and Miss Lovaton left the country. She now lives in Miami with her chil- 
dren named Trujillo. In the meantime Carnivals were relegated to a 
second place until Trujillo's own daughter Angelita was ready to hold 
the scepter. She was chosen as Queen of the Fair in 1955. 

Nevertheless, someone of the ruling circle conceived the idea of pro- 
moting Dominican participation in the "Miss Universe" contest at Long 
Beach, California, in 1956. The idea was taken up with enthusiasm and 
shortly thereafter a host of beautiful candidates for the title of "Miss 
Dominican Republic" sprang up from all over the country. Questioned by 
Dominican newspaper reporters about their reasons for wanting to rep* 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 14 

resent the country, almost all the candidates gave a standard answer. They 
wanted the world to know the progress of the Dominican Republic under 
the peerless leadership of the Benefactor. Questions about their tastes in 
literature met also with near unanimity: most of them loved the moral 
writings of the First Lady. 

When the moment to select the winner arrived, so did the problems. 
The majority of the members of the selecting panel received word from 
Mrs. Trujillo that they were permitted to vote for any except two of the 
candidates: the prettiest girl (who happened to be the daughter of Eduardo 
Sanchez Cabral, of the "Affair of the Matum") and a niece of the still 
hated Queen of the Carnival of 1937, Genoveva Lovaton Ricart The 
judges wisely settled for a distant relative of the Trujillo family, one Olga 
Fiallo Oliva. 

As should have been expected, when the controversial verdict was an- 
nounced to the crowd gathered at the Jaragua Hotel to witness the final 
selection, there were a few shouts of protest. The names of the alleged 
ringleaders of the demonstration were written down by the secret police. 
Most of them were severely scolded in El Caribe, particularly a young 
Under Secretary of Industry named Eduardo Leon Asensio, who sup- 
posedly should have known better. Leon was accused of conduct unbe- 
coming the dignity of a high government official during the enlightened 
Era of Trujillo. On the other hand, Mrs. Trujillo seemingly knew what 
she was doing in vetoing the candidacy of the prettiest girl. By sheer co- 
incidence Sanchez Cabral had been pardoned by "The Chief" and rein- 
stated in his good graces in those days. 

Under such a system, independent groups and associations cannot exist. 
Unlike Hitler and other dictators, Trujillo has not banned certain organi- 
zations like the Rotary clubs, Boy Scouts, Masons and religious associa- 
tions. All these formerly respected civic groups have been transformed into 
Trujillo fronts. Thus, when some trujillista manifesto needs the backing 
of internationally known groups for foreign consumption, there are always 
the Rotary, Masonic lodge or religious groups to lend a hand. 

There is the case, for instance, of a two-page spread addressed to "the 
members of the American Newspaper Publishers Association" by their 
self-appointed "friends in the Dominican Republic," that appeared in the 
May 5, 1956 issue of the American magazine Editor and Publisher. 

After calling the Benefactor "one of the extraordinary figures of our 
time" as well as one of "that small handful of men who . . . have changed 
the course of history," the so-called "message" to ANPA summoned the 
publishers to provide Trujillo's full story Dominican style of course 
to the American people. "We value," the self-styled "friends" asserted, 
"the good opinions of the American citizens highly as a man must value 
the opinions of his friends. And we are enraged when scurrilous rumor- 


mongers tamper with that opinion as any man must be angered when 
malicious untruths about him are spread among his friends." 

Trujillo's detractors, the ad went on to imply, were only a bunch of 
Communists; in fact, the same group that had been maligning the United 
States. But, it was added, Dominicans do not believe such lies about 
Americans. However, a veiled threat followed: "We are proud to say that 
unlike some other 'friends' of your country [the U.S.], we give no ear to 
these venomous slanders, nor mil we so long as you remain our friends." 
(Italics added.) 

With the obvious purpose of adding an extra note of respectability to 
their assertions, the sponsors of the ad pointed out that former American 
Secretary of State CordeU Hull had considered Trujfflo "one of the great 
statesmen of the Americas." 1 

At the bottom of this patent piece of trujillista self-adulation placed 
and paid for by the Dominican Information Center, a registered publicity 
agency of the Trujillo regime in the United States appeared the names of 
Monsignor Ricardo Pittini, Archbishop Primate of America; Dr. Pedro 
Troncoso Sanchez, Rector of the University of Santo Domingo; Dr. Arturo 
Damiron Ricart, President of the Rotary Club of Ciudad Trujillo; Dr. 
Amable Lugo S., President of the Dominican Red Cross; Rev. Carlos 
Amado Ruiz, Pastor of the Consultative Council of Evangelical Churches 
of the Dominican Republic; Dr. Hipolito Herrera "Billing President of the 
Supreme Court of Justice; Franklin Mieses Burgos, Director of the Insti- 
tute of Hispanic Culture; and Dr. Julio Jupiter, President of the Dominican 
American Cultural Institute (an organization officially supported by the 
U.S. State Department). 

Commenting upon this tour de force, Robert U. Brown, editor of Editor 
and Publisher and one of the leaders of the Inter American Press Asso- 
ciation, stressed the fact that the same group of gentlemen had signed a 
letter printed in the April 28, 1956 issue of the New York Times. In their 
letter to the Times they took exception to that newspaper calling Trujillo 
a dictator and repeated the charge that regardless of nationality the ma- 
jority of Trujillo's critics were "known or hidden Communists." "That," 
Brown said, "didn't have to carry the printed endorsement of the Informa- 
tion Center' that our ad carried although we assume it was present." 

Brown noticed that the "notables' " letter followed a clear pattern. Just 
a few days before in a statement to the press, the Dominican Consul 

1 In all fairness to the memory of Mr. Hull it must be said that a thorough check of 
his two-volume memoirs failed to produce a single instance of such appraisal. It seems 
that the much hoasted about friendship between Trujillo and Hull is another trujillista 
fable with no other foundation than a few protocol exchanges of official letters, one 
or two brief personal interviews and a letter Hull wrote to a Dominican diplomat 
calling Trujillo "a splendid President, who is outstanding among all those in the 
American nations." 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 16 

General in New York had accused the Communists of trying to "disrupt 
the unreserved support of Generalissimo Trajillo toward the United 
States." After singling out these and other examples of vicious trujillista 
propaganda, Brown concluded: "So it would seem that anyone who at- 
tacks Trujillo is a Communist." 

Far more significant is the lack of any record concerning an official rep- 
resentation on account of the improper use for partisan politics of the 
Dominican American Cultural Institute, an organization sponsored and 
paid for by the American taxpayers. Nor did the Vatican chide the Arch- 
bishop, either on that occasion or when in September 1957 it was an- 
nounced that in response to a query by U.S. Representative Gardner R. 
Withrow, Monsignor Pittini asserted that the "absolutely anti-Communist" 
Dominican Republic gave its law-abiding citizens as much freedom as 
United States citizens have. 



tourist hotels soon learn to recognize the Dominican Republic as seem- 
ingly a land of paradoxes. These people, sometimes newspapermen, do not 
succeed in understanding how, although revolutions have been recently 
plaguing almost every country south of the Rio Grande, the Dominican 
people remains passive, showing not the slightest outward sign of dissatis- 
faction or dissent. Nor can they see why if it is true that there is such 
a lack of civil rights in the country as claimed by Trujillo's enemies 
Dominicans have been left unmoved even by nearby explosions of popular 
unrest such as the general strike that in December 1956 unseated the dic- 
tatorial regime of President Paul Magloire in Haiti. 

Conversely, Dominicans feel at a loss trying to understand why people 
coming down to their land from supposedly free lands where human dig- 
nity is highly prized and people are allegedly taught never to bow under 
the pressures of tyranny do not wait long to express unrestrained ap- 
proval of the Dominican dictatorship. 

Bound to his land by the virtual impossibility of obtaining a passport, 
the average Dominican is unable to grasp why people who enjoy freedom 
of movement sink themselves into the poisonous morass of Trujilloland 
and, worst of all, act as if they enjoyed it. 

"We are very happy to have the opportunity to express the affection and 
the loyalty that we feel toward President Trujillo." These words did not 
come from the lips of a native courtier. They were uttered by an execu- 
tive of a large American sugar corporation on an occasion of public 
homage to the Benefactor. Then Mr. E. I. Kilbourne added: "This loy- 


alty is born not only as a consequence of our friendly personal relations 
that always have existed between each one of us individually and General 
Trujillo, but it is also the result of the wisdom and foresight that he has 
shown in considering the problems of the industry with which we are as- 

Incapable of understanding the reasons for this conduct, Dominicans 
reach the false conclusion that servility is not the exclusive patrimony of 
enslaved nations. The local press prints many dispatches showing the 
favorable international disposition toward the Benefactor's achievements 
and the regime spares no effort to convince its subjects that they can ex- 
pect neither encouragement nor sympathy from the outside world should 
they try to stand up against Trujillo's rule. 

It is with profound pessimism, therefore, that Dominicans see the 
honors paid to Trujillo by distinguished foreigners, including influential 
statesmen, military brass, clergymen and the diplomatic representatives of 
the most democratic powers of the world. It is impossible to estimate the 
demoralizing effect wrought when more than thirty diplomats offered a 
glittering testimonial dinner to Trujillo on the night of January 9, 1956, 
to celebrate his so-called silver wedding anniversary with the Fatherland. 
Upon that occasion, speaking in the name of his colleagues, the Vatican 
representative, Monsignor Salvatore Siino, praised in no uncertain terms 
the Christian spirit and humanitarian content of Trujillo's most Catholic 
statesmanship. Whereupon, as a token of warm affection the Benefactor 
was given an autographed silver platter. 

The diplomatic corps offered somewhat similar homage on the night of 
May 18, 1957 to President Hector B. Trujillo, whose name had headed 
the single-party ticket in the elections held two days before extending 
for another five years the dictatorship's sway. Although Hector was the 
man supposedly being feted on this occasion, the Generalissimo, true to 
form, stole the show from little brother. He barely allowed Hector to re- 
ceive a scroll signed by twenty-two chiefs of missions. 

By the same token no international conference ever set down to busi- 
ness in the Dominican Republic without first electing as honorary presi- 
dents the Generalissimo and his little brother the President. 

Individually, too, foreign diplomats give the impression that their duty 
is to make exaggerated curtsies to the Generalissimo. In the last fifteen 
years a big nation like Brazil has failed to accredit to the country a single 
ambassador willing to show, if not dignified and open adherence to demo- 
cratic principles, at least some restraint and discretion in his dealings 
with the Benefactor. The question which puzzles students of the Dominican 
situation is: How does Trujillo go about persuading free men to accept 
this sort of thing in the first place? 

As far as the Benefactor is concerned, the answer lies in his practical 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 18 

knowledge of human nature. Diplomats are tempted by flattery and by 
actions that tend to enhance ther sense of prestige. Thus, in exchange for 
medals and honorary degrees, in many cases, diplomats turn themselves 
into shameless propagandists of the trujillista gospel. 

Paulo Germano Hasslocher, who retired as Brazilian Ambassador to the 
Dominican Republic full of trujillista honors, exemplifies this type of 
diplomat. He developed a reputation as something of a "shadow" to the 
Benefactor at receptions and other functions, and his mouth was always 
full of eulogies for the Dominican regime he would never lavish upon his 
own government. Upon his return to Brazil, Hasslocher openly engaged in 
public relations work for Trujillo in the Rio de Janeiro press. 

The present Brazilian Ambassador, Decio Martins Coimbra, did not 
wait long to follow in his predecessor's footsteps. Shortly after his arrival 
in September 1956, he earned for himself the dubious distinction of re- 
ceiving a congratulatory communication from all the members of the 
Dominican cabinet, who were elated by his pro-Trujillo statements in a 
speech broadcast by the Trujillo-owned radio network. La Voz Domini-' 
cana, on Brazil's Independence Day. 

Another outstanding example of a diplomat turned trujillista in detri- 
ment to the best interests of his own country, is afforded by Dr. Enrique 
Loudet, Charge d'Affaires of the Argentinian regime of General Pedro E. 
Aramburu. While Trujillo was engaged in actively helping the former Ar- 
gentinian dictator Juan D. Peron to plot from Venezuela against the 
Aramburu government as officially charged later by more alert Argen- 
tinian diplomats Loudet's mouth was filled with laudatory adjectives for 
the Benefactor. So intense was Loudet's admiration for the Generalissimo 
that on several occasions he broke all the rules of diplomatic propriety 
and called his hero in public "Trujillo the Great." 

Finally recalled by his Government, Loudet was showered with honors 
before his departure. Upon Trujillo's orders, the University of Santo 
Domingo bestowed upon him the honorary degree of Doctor of Philosophy, 
and he was appointed an honorary professor as well. The diplomat paid 
back in kind. Prior to his investiture Loudet dedicated his last book, pub- 
lished in Ciudad Trujillo, to the Benefactor "in homage of sincere and 
deep admiration for his peerless achievements of visionary statesmanship." 
Then, to crown his performance the outgoing Charg6 d'Affaires printed a 
farewell message in El Caribe, stating that he considered himself unable to 
repay his debt of gratitude to the Dominican people and, particularly, to 
their illustrious statesmen meaning no doubt the big and little brothers. 

Mexico is another country which lately betrayed its time-honored 
democratic traditions through the antics of its Ambassador to Trujillo's 
court. The head of the Mexican diplomatic mission in Ciudad Trujillo, Dr. 
Francisco del Rio Canedo, was recalled in the long run but only after his 


increasingly vocal support of Trujillo had proved a source of embarrass- 
ment for the Mexican Foreign Office. He, too, left the country with his 
hands full of the highest Dominican decorations and with honorary de- 
grees awarded by the University of Santo Domingo and other Govern- 
ment institutions. 

Foreign adulation is not limited to diplomats. Ordinary people indulge 
in the practice with equal gusto, and some cynical natives point out the 
fact that strangers soon show a remarkable command of the art of toady- 
ing to the Benefactor and even a knack for outrunning natives in their 
adulatory race. 

At the beginning of 1956, a group of foreigners, headed by the late 
John Hagen, American construction tycoon, set up a widely-advertised 
committee for the purpose of erecting a statue of the Benefactor in the 
center of Independence Park in Ciudad Trujillo. After Hagen's untimely 
death, another American millionaire, William B. Pawley, has been closely 
associated with this project, announced as an expression of gratitude from 
the "foreign colony" to the Generalissimo. 

By the same token, when the hotel operators decided it was high time 
to show their "gratitude" to the dictator for allowing them to accommodate 
the few American tourists still coming to the country, it was a well-known 
American businessman (then associated with Dominican Government hotel 
properties) who was chosen as president of the organizing and fund-raising 
committee: Robert K. Christenberry. 

Foreign corporations are actively engaged in publicity schemes in the 
Dominican Republic, which would be unheard of in the countries they 
come from. Esso Standard Oil, for example, announced to its clients the 
introduction of a new type of gasoline in January 1956 with a full page 
ad in El Caribe. Instead of explaining the many advantages of the new 
product, the American corporation let it be known, as its only and most 
convincing argument, that this progressive step was a result of its earnest 
desire to keep abreast of the country's achievements in the "highly pro- 
pitious Year of the Benefactor." A few days later the inauguration of a 
new Pan American World Airways flight was advertised in similar terms. 
On national holidays the foreign corporations deem it their duty to join 
in the chorus of benedictions to "The Chief" and place full-page news- 
paper ads written in the usual flowery language. It may be, of course, that 
this attitude is an application of "when in Rome, do as Romans do." 

One of the ironies of the situation is that the Johnny-come-latelies from 
overseas seem to be not only great admirers of Trujillo's domestic accom- 
plishments, but most enthusiastic collaborators with his foreign policy. 
Their unreserved support of "The Chief" goes so far that it may run coun- 
ter to the best interest of their own countries. If the Benefactor gets in a 
quarrel with a neighboring leader a thing likely to happen over any trifle 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 20 

it is a sure bet that the nationals of the "enemy" country residing in 
Santo Domingo will "spontaneously" rally to Trujillo's defense. Their 
statements chiding the Government back home for its obnoxious be- 
havior toward the Benefactor are prominently displayed by the press and 
broadcast by the radio networks. The files of the Dominican newspapers 
will reveal during the past two years a number of such derogatory letters 
against the Governor of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Luis Muiioz 
Marin, who has lately become one of Trujillo's pet hatreds. The Bene- 
factor highly resents the uncompromising democratic stand of the Puerto 
Rican statesman. Before blackmailing Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista 
into the Caribbean axis of tyrannies, the Cuban regime was a favorite tar- 
get for the most slanderous attacks by the Dominican press and radio. 
Many Cubans were willing collaborators with "The Chiefs" designs. 

In deference to truth, it must be said that regardless of nationality all 
residents of the country are subject to almost the same types of pressure 
from the dictatorship. Hence, to protect their means of livelihood, peoples 
of all nationalities react in much the same way. There are, however, an 
increasing number of visitors for whom this excuse is not applicable the 
transient intellectual and political beachcombers. Usually newspapermen, 
writers, legislators, government officials, lecturers, professors, or labor 
leaders, these people come down to the country either to further their own 
political game or to seek an opportunity to exploit Trujillo's unquenchable 
thirst for publicity. 

The modern privateers of the pen who hop from dictatorship to dicta- 
torship throughout Latin America find an exceedingly fertile ground in the 
Dominican Republic. A mysterious grapevine tells them that a few gold 
coins may easily be obtained whenever they feed the dictator's ego. To 
secure economic gains they feel no qualms in joining with alacrity the 
extragavant pageant of tributes. 

Occasional visitors to the country, whose contacts are normally limited 
to the tourist hotels, government guides, embassies, and perhaps a few 
business associates, hardly notice the full extent of the situation. With the 
exception of a handful of well-trained, alert newspapermen (who know 
that a brief visit to a totalitarian capital cannot give insight into the 
country's real nature) most of the visitors seem to take the outward signs 
of Dominican life as a true reflection of national character. 

Latins are known to be explosive to eat politics, breathe politics, sleep 
politics but not Dominicans. However, their political disinterest seems 
so well adjusted to the strange setting in which they live that few people 
pay any attention to it. Not even their silences, lack of opposition and 
near somberness, coupled with a remarkable show of unanimous support 
of the regime, make the passing visitors suspicious. Even the most percep- 


tive among newspapers correspondents with a few honorable exceptions, 
of course leave the country after a brief visit and report: "It is a dicta- 
torship, but there is peace, progress, stability, and the people seem to 
support it." These reporters fail to grasp the solid fact that what they see 
are results, not causes. 



Dominican Republic still has a Constitution which, adorned with an elab- 
orate bill of rights, reads like a very democratic document. Yet the tech- 
niques of Government are obscure, and there is a wide gulf between the 
letter of this "Magna Charta" and the actual workings of the regime. 

However, this should not be strange. The Generalissimo has revealed 
himself as a firm believer in tradition and there is not a more ingrained 
tradition in Latin America than that of giving a legal democratic appear- 
ance to strong arm regimes. Observers of the situation, including the 
missing Professor Jesus de Galindez, point out that the typical Spanish 
American dictatorship has a characteristic which identifies it and, at the 
same time, isolates and differentiates it from other dictatorial regimes: to 
wit, "it's adoption of the formal structure of western democracy." 

Noting that Latin American dictatorships feature a constitution, peri- 
odical elections, and a Government whose structure is sometimes in- 
spired by that of the United States divided into the three classical 
branches, Gallndez asserted that "each and every one of these democratic 
institutions become perverted in practice so that they turn out to be mere 
instruments at the service of a strong man, who usually is the president of 
the republic." 

By these standards Trujillo qualifies as a prototype of the Latin dicta- 
tor. He, however, has far exceeded anything the pace-setters might have 
taught him in this field. Despite his absolute power, he has paid lip-service 
to the external trappings of democratic rule. Instead of discarding democratic 
procedures, he has managed to make a mockery of them. Instead of sweeping 
away the Constitution he found in full force when he came to power, he 
chose rigorously to observe its precepts and scrupulously to maintain such 
cumbersome and seemingly unnecessary stage props as a separate executive, 


legislature and judiciary. If some constitutional provision bothers him or 
stands in his way, he sometimes overcomes it by stretching the extremely 
pliable fabric of Dominican political institutions. But if the obstacle appears 
insurmountable, he promptly brushes it aside with the help of properly 
passed constitutional amendments. This he has done four times through the 
twenty-seven years he has been in the saddle: in 1934, 1942, 1947 and 1955. 

In some measure, by indulging in this pastime of changing the consti- 
tutional canon at will, Trujillo shows a steadfast adherence to another tra- 
dition inbedded in the political mores of the Dominican nation. The utter 
disregard for the sanctity of the Constitution, shown by local chieftains 
through all the years of independence, has always been regarded as one 
of the chief obstacles to orderly democratic government in the country. 

Benjamin Sumner Wells, one of the keenest students of Dominican his- 
tory, put the matter clearly in his book, Naboth's Vineyard. 

"Constitutional government, in brief, is to the average Dominican but 
an empty phrase. The Constitution originally proclaimed has been changed 
innumerable times merely to satisfy the selfish aspirations of the indi- 
vidual or the party in power. It has never been amended or reformed in 
the interest of the Dominican people as a whole. Instead of being regarded 
as the sacred charter of the people's liberties, the Constitution has been 
considered a legitimate source of advantage to the party or to the person 
in control, and has consequently been modified at frequent intervals with- 
out due reflection, and without proper consideration, solely to satisfy the 
desires or requirements of those enabled thus to advance them." 

Had Welles been writing about the current Dominican situation he could 
not have chosen better words to assess it. At its best, government in the 
Dominican Republic today is by Trujillo, of Trujillo, and for Trujillo. 

The present constitution was adopted in December 1955, and it is one 
of the newest in Latin America. In its present form it is a relatively short 
document. The constitution has no preamble and at once proceeds to a 
number of general statements concerning the democratic nature of the 
government and the inalienability of the national territory. 

Article Four declares communism incompatible with the fundamental 
principles recognized by the charter and authorizes Congress to pass laws 
punishing those who advocate such a doctrine. Another article calls the 
only political party in the country, the Partido Dominicano, an agency of 
civilization, and still another proclaims that the titles granted to General- 
issimo Trujillo are permanent and cannot be revoked. 

The Constitution has an imposing list of guarantees of individual liberty. 
First among the rights is the "inviolability of life." According to the Con- 
stitution the death penalty may not be imposed except in cases of treason 
or espionage during wartime. 

Then comes "individual security." According to clause 2 of Article 8, 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 24 

no one may be arrested without a court order save in case of ftagmnte 
delicto. There are different provisions guaranteeing that anyone arrested 
must be presented in court within forty-eight hours after his arrest or else 
released, and that anyone deprived of liberty without cause or without 
legal formalities must be released immediately upon his or another's request 
(Habeas Corpus). In practice, however, none of these precepts is ever ful- 
filled. The courts as a rule deny in political trials the right to an accused 
person to confront his accuser. There are situations where star-chamber 
procedures are employed in preference to public trials, and there are even 
persons and groups to whom the right of any trial at all is denied. In many 
circumstances, individuals are subject to double jeopardy. On one occa- 
sion my own father, while a judge of first instance in the court of San- 
tiago, acquitted a young student, Rafael Moore Garrido, charged with 
"communist activities." Upon acquittal the boy was apprehended at the 
doors of the court and brought back to trial. My father acquitted him 
again. Thereupon the Government demoted my father as a judge and later 
on another judge condemned the unfortunate youngster. As a rule in cases 
involving political crimes the accused is denied the individual right to a 
public trial, to due process of the law, or to freedom from excessive bail 
and fines. 

The right to own property is also guaranteed by the Constitution. This 
right is usually respected as long as a conflict with the private interests of 
Trujillo or members of his family does not arise. If such a thing happens, 
the constitutional guarantee is soon forgotten. Anyone can start a new 
business provided, of course, that it does not compete with a Trujillo 
enterprise but if it prospers the proprietor is likely to find that a member 
of the Trujillo family has become a silent partner. Enemies of the govern- 
ment are stripped, either without due process of law or through phony law 
suits and alleged claims for back taxes. Innumerable are the cases of 
people who have lost their fortunes just because they did not agree with 
the Benefactor about something. One of the best known examples is 
that of Juan Rodriguez Garcia, the second richest man in the country, who 
in 1946 went into exile and soon thereafter headed the abortive revolu- 
tionary attempts of Cayo Confites and Luper6n. All Rodriguez' properties, 
worth according to conservative estimates around $8 million, were con- 
fiscated by the Administration and later sold for a pittance to members of 
the Trujillo family and hand-picked associates of the Benefactor. 

A reading of the constitutional provisions concerning labor and social 
security will lead anyone to believe that Dominicans live within the perfect 
welfare state. They are supposedly assured protection from the day they 
see light for the first time to the fateful moment in which they depart from 
this world. A labor code, properly called Cddigo Trujillo de Trabajo, was 


passed by Congress to implement the constitutional provisions. The code 
is an almost perfect instrument of protection for the toiling man, drafted 
in accordance with the highest standards set by the International Labor 
Organization (of which the Dominican Republic is a member), but in 
practice it is an almost forgotten blessing and the workers are discouraged 
from making use of its provisions for collective bargaining and the right 
to strike. Since the promulgation of the code not a single labor pact has 
been signed to regulate wages and labor conditions and not a strike has 
been called by any of the government-dominated unions. 

These examples show that the value of a bill of rights depends, of course, 
on its interpretation. It has been pointed out before that a declaration of 
human rights is no better than the officials who enforce it. Yet, even though 
the interpretation of the bill of rights is left to his absolute discretion and 
that of his subservient judiciary, Trujillo does not take chances. Accord- 
ing to clauses 7 and 8 of Article 38 of the Constitution it is possible to 
declare either a state of siege under which certain individual freedoms 
are suspended or a state of national emergency with suspension of all 
rights except that of inviolability of life. 

Following another Latin American custom the constitution provides for 
a very strong executive. In the scheme of Dominican political life even 
under normal conditions the president is more important than Congress 
or the courts, or the two combined. He is elected for a five-year term, but 
there is, unlike most Latin nations, no constitutional restriction to prevent 
further reelections. The president is authorized to appoint and remove al- 
most the entke personnel of the national administration; only for diplo- 
matic appointments does he need Senate confirmation. He is allowed to 
call special sessions of Congress and also to extend regular sessions. The 
executive can impede by decree the entry of foreigners into the country 
and deport them without appeal. With regard to lawmaking the presi- 
dent's authority is not at all unusual, except that he is specifically per- 
mitted to issue decree laws on budgetary matters when Congress is not 
in session. He may also introduce bills in Congress (in practice he is the 
only one who does it) and may veto congressional proposals. A two-thirds 
vote in each chamber is necessary to override the president's veto. 

For years Trujillo has been toying with the idea of grooming his elder 
son, Lieutenant General Rafael L. "Ramfis" Trujillo, Jr., to take his place 
in the Dominican scheme of things. This has not happened because Tru- 
jillo is inimical to sharing any portion of his absolute power with anyone 
else, even his own beloved son. However, in 1955, when the young Tru- 
jillo was already 26 years of age, certain constitutional amendments were 
passed in order to lower the required age for the presidency to 25 years 
and to restore the post of Vice-President which had been eliminated in 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 26 

1942. Somehow the Benefactor's plans for making his son first Vice- 
President as a step to the next higher position backfired. Ramfis who has 
strong ambitions of his own resented not being offered the presidency right 
away and haughtily refused the vice-presidential nomination. The excuse 
he gave publicly was that he did not want to give up his military career. 

Though unquestionably the boss, the Generalissimo no longer bothers 
about the title of President, a post which has been held since 1952 by his 
younger brother, General Hector B. Trujillo Molina. No one, not even the 
"president" himself, however, has any illusions about where the real power 
resides. A special law declares that the Benefactor is entitled to the same 
privileges as the nominal president, but aside from this act dealing with 
protocol details, there is no other description of "the Chiefs" role as 
"super-president" either in the laws of the country or in the constitution. 
For all purposes, however, Trujillo is recognized even by foreign govern- 
ments as the actual head of the state, a fact of which international or- 
ganizations take cognizance. Cabinet members, and other high officials, 
when appointed to office address their thanks not to Hector but to Rafael. 
In his own speeches the Generalissimo takes credit for all things done 
since 1930, despite the fact there have been periods when he has been 
technically out of office. 

Thirty-one articles of the constitution elaborate in a detailed manner the 
rights and duties of the legislative power. There is a two-chambered Con- 
gress, elected by popular suffrage for five-year terms. Although an avowed 
rubber-stamp body, whose members are all picked followers of the Bene- 
factor elected either in the single-ticket of the only existing party or 
by the vote of their congressmen on the floor of each chamber the Do- 
minican Congress has a record number of meetings, not exceeded by any 
other popular assembly in the globe. It never recesses in the whole year 
and when a session is about to end it is either prolonged by Congress 
itself or by a presidential decree it convenes for a special session. As a 
result, there is probably no other Congress that legislates so profusely as 
the trujillista one. Dominican legislation is casuistic to the greatest possible 
degree. Trujillo send bills to Congress to accommodate the law of the land 
to his passing caprices. So, when in 1935 he wanted to divorce wife num- 
ber two (Mrs. Bienvenida Ricardo) to marry wife number three, Trujillo 
sent a message to Congress which promptly passed a law providing that 
a married couple may be divorced, by the unilateral will of one of the 
partners, after five years of childless marriage. Later when he wanted to 
disavow and disinherit his daughter Hor de Ore, Congress passed a law 
making it possible for a father to do such a thing. Other examples of this 
type of legislation are the law making it a crime to resign a government 
post while its holder is on foreign soil; the law giving equal rights to chil- 
dren born out of wedlock (which benefits the large Trujillo flock) ; and a 


host of tax exemptions and other financial provisions passed to meet 
trujillista needs by simple changes of legal arrangements. 

Almost everything can be made legal in the country. Lacking the bal- 
ance provided by opposition groups, the main function of the legislative 
power is to give speedy sanctions to the policies laid down by the execu- 
tive. The chambers display exemplary dispatch in the approval of laws 
presented by the President and it is not uncommon for a bill declared 
"urgent" to be given two readings by both houses and passed all in one 
day. For two years I was a member of Congress and throughout that 
period I do not recall a single argument over the passage of a bill. The few 
occasions in which bills were introduced directly from the floor (and 
I had to do it twice) were upon direct orders from the Generalissimo, who 
would pick a legislator for that purpose. 

Although members of congress are supposedly elected by direct vote, 
actually they do not represent their constituents. They are chosen entirely 
from above in accordance with standards determined by Trujillo himself, 
which are very fluid and vary with individual cases. An able pimp, a 
crooked lawyer or a paid thug has as much a right to sit in Congress, in 
Trujillo's opinion, as an honorable merchant, farmer or professional. All 
of them, accordingly, mix freely in the chambers of the Senate and the 
House of Representatives. The head of the political parties and since 
there is just one in the Dominican Republic, Trujillo himself has exclu- 
sive power to appoint new congressmen as vacancies occur, a thing bound 
to occur frequently because every legislator (as well as any other elected 
official) must sign his resignation before taking the oath of office. 

Congress, it must be noted, is the only body empowered by the Con- 
stitution to declare war on a foreign power. This has been done only once 
during the Era of Trujillo in 1941 when the Dominican Republic took 
the Free World's side in the war against Fascism and Nazism. Credit for 
doing this has been shamelessly taken away from Congress by Trujillo. 
He even asked and was granted upon one occasion, in December 1949, 
the authorization, obviously unconstitutional, to declare war against any 
nation harboring enemies of the regime. 

Several articles of the Constitution deal with the legal system. There 
are courts in the Dominican Republic and even a Supreme Court. Justice, 
however, is corrupt. Judges have no independence and are so accustomed 
to take their cue from government officials, even in cases in no way con- 
nected with politics, that the situation became a matter of growing concern 
even to Trujillo himself. The racket of selling court decisions (a privilege 
not of the judges themselves but of certain members of the Trujillo family, 
as well as a handful of their henchmen) grew to such scandalous propor- 
tions and the majesty of justice sunk to such low depths that in 1956 Tru- 
jillo felt compelled to send a bill to Congress making any attempt by a 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 28 

Government official to influence the course of legal procedures a punish- 
able offense. 

On the whole Trujillo's structure of power is tyrannical and arbitrary; 
but it is also fluid and adaptable. Its main characteristic one that is ap- 
parent in almost all modern "popular democracies" is a fake reliance 
on popular approval; force is disguised by forms of law or justice. 



rewritten so many times by his biographers in the Dominican National 
Palace with such notable changes, bold omissions and emendations that 
the Dominican Republic now possesses a new, fully slanted history. The 
technique popularized in fiction by George Orwell has proved greatly 
successful for Trujillo. As a result, in the Dominican Republic the color 
black is not necessarily black nor is white white the color depends en- 
tirely on how the Generalissimo sees it. 

Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina, fourth of a family of eleven children 
(ten are still alive), was born in San Cristobal, Dominican Republic, 
October 24, 1891. The place where Trujillo saw the light of day for the 
first time was a poverty-ridden, sleepy, agricultural village on the southern 
coast. Trujiilo's family, like practically every other family in that back- 
ward community, was struggling to make ends meet. His father, humble, 
amiable Jose Trujillo Valdez, better known as Pepito, was a nonentity. 

Pepito never rose by himself above the level of a minor postal clerk 
in his home-town, whose salary, when not in arrears, was substandard. 
With so many mouths to feed it is not strange that the Trujillo children 
walked shoeless during their early days. It is not improbable that as a side- 
line the pater familias and his elder children resorted occasionally to cat- 
tle rustling. 

Rather than seeing advantage in their hero's humble beginnings, rather 
than exploiting the cruel but nevertheless honorable handicap of poverty, 
Trujiilo's biographers have drawn a screen over these early days. The 
published facts dealing with this period are sparse indeed. It is officially 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 30 

said that he was taught to read and write by his maternal grandmother, 
Ercina Chevalier, described by one of the chroniclers as a "woman of 
great charm and culture." It is also said that Rafael attended grammar 
school, and that he suffered an attack of diphtheria. 

Dr. Jesus de Galindez, the Basque scholar whose disappearance has 
been generally attributed to his research into the Trajillo regime, left be- 
hind an exhaustive, soundly documented history of the Generalissimo en- 
titled The Era of Trujillo. But even a trained historian like Galindez met 
with little success in his search for facts about Trujillo's early life. "Pub- 
lished references to his (Trujillo's) childhood and adolescence are vague 
and at times contradictory," wrote Galindez. "It seems that his first em- 
ployment came to him at the age of sixteen when he became a telegraph 

Here again we find a curious reluctance for a sympathetic exploitation of 
Trujillo's underprivileged youth. "The Big One" could have easily been 
described as a Dominican Thomas Alva Edison. This reluctance is partly 
explained only by the fact that Trujillo's home was not only poor but 
unhappy. Lacking proper guidance and care, the children grew up without 
much respect for law and property. Intent on feeding the increasing fam- 
ily with the meager means at hand neither Jose Trujillo Valdez nor his 
benevolent, godfearing wife, Julia Molina, could instill much Christianity as 
a way of life upon their tattered household. 

My research for data concerning Trujillo's boyhood has been as disap- 
pointingly unsuccessful as that of Dr. de Galindez. I am familiar with an 
account saying that "the Chief's" formal education was acquired at Pablo 
Barina's grammar school in San Cristobal. I also know that as the prin- 
cipal and only teacher of the village's only school, Seiaor Barines had his 
hands full and was barely able to keep a watchful eye on every child put 
under his custody. Discipline was hard to maintain in the loose establish- 
ment and truancy was rampant. No wonder it Is impossible to find docu- 
mentation that Trujillo rose higher than the fourth grade. 

But if the children did not learn much at school, the dusty streets which 
separated in those days the monotonous rows of San Cristobal's shacks pro- 
vided them with an excellent schooling in lawlessness. To survive the 
rowdyism of the neighborhood's kids, a boy had to be tougher than the 
others. Or, at least, as in Trujillo's case he had to belong to a large, clan- 
nish family. In frequent street brawls the solid front of the Trajillo boys 
proved good enough to lick all opposition, a fact they never forgot later 
in life. From such an environment Rafael emerged as a resourceful, head- 
strong character. "As a boy Trujillo was always in trouble" recalls one of 
his neighbors, "Always trying to cheat someone, always bragging about 
how he would one day make big money without much effort." 

Trujillo quickly earned himself a nickname. He was called Chapita. For 


some unknown reason Trujillo never liked Ms nickname. No one knows 
for certain how he acquired it, but the fact that he strongly resented it 
might be the cause for a number of unsavory versions about its origin. In 
Spanish the word chapita means a small metal token or medal, but by a 
rather slangy extension it also means "bottle cap." People who knew "the 
Chief" in those days assert that he developed an early passion for hoarding 
caps of soda pop and beer bottles, as well as other little trinkets. Upon 
discovering this hobby, it is said, other children began calling him Chapita. 
Trajillo's detractors argue that the passion itself was not responsible for 
the nickname, but the fact that Rafael was not too particular about the 
means by which he acquired his trifles. In support of their contention they 
note that collecting caps was a widespread hobby of children in those days. 
Somehow the nickname was eventually eliminated as result of one of Tru- 
jillo's earliest biographical rewrites. To accomplish this, however, he had 
to banish the word from the language. Many people who stubbornly dis- 
regarded the prohibition paid dearly for their daring. Though successful 
in suppressing the word, the Generalissimo has failed to abolish its mean- 
ing. The natural and probably innocent boyhood passion for collecting 
meaningless trifles remains with him to this day although considerably 
changed in scope. In his maturity Trupillo collects medals and decorations, 
of which he possesses more than fifty. 

The diphtheria attack has received a curious interpretation in the official 
annals. Trujillo's recovery from this illness is explained as a Divine Man- 
ifestation. Dominican children are instructed in their class rooms that God 
reached down and saved the suffering Rafael so that he might one day 
lead the "Fatherland" forward to its present glorious state. 

Apart from these bare facts, a thick blanket is thrown over Trujillo's 
early years by his apologists. A brief tear is shed for his youth, however. 
"Both his environment and the times curtailed his early formal education," 
writes one of the official biographers. He also states that "the same set of 
circumstances soon set him (Trujillo) to earning his own livelihood, and 
it was then that, under the guidance of his uncle, Don Plinio Pina Che- 
valier, he started as a telegraph operator." 

There was a time in Trujillo's early life when he did some honest work. 
The guiding uncles (there were two) who provided him with the means of 
earning his daily bread at such an early age were Julia Molina's half broth- 
ers, Teodulo and Plinio Pina Chevalier. From the outset both men exerted 
a large influence in shaping their nephew's life and character. 

Plinio, a quiet, soft-spoken, short man of no small personal charm and 
intelligence, was for years one of Rafael's most trusted advisers. After Tru- 
jillo became President, Plinio came to live in the United States, accredited 
as a Counselor to the Dominican Embassy in Washington. However, he 
spent most of his time in New York City, where during a long period he 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 32 

acted as a sort of personal representative of Trujillo in political and busi- 
ness fields. Shielded by his diplomatic immunity Plinio had his fingers in 
many international political pies and his New York City apartment was a 
hotbed of high political intrigue. He died in New York late in 1956 and 
his body was returned to the Dominican Republic where upon Trujillo's 
orders an elaborate official funeral was held. One of Ciudad Trujillo's 
streets has been named after him. 

The other uncle, Teodulo, dedicated himself to domestic politics as well 
as the sensuous pleasures of life. A colorful character with a real zest for 
life, for food and for alcohol. In his youth he had sported a flair for writ- 
ing poetry and prose which made him the only "intellectual" in the Family. 
He finally drank himself out of existence. 

A highly voluble extrovert who easily made friends and connections even 
in stations higher than his own, Teodulo was instrumental in finding Rafael a 
place in the Dominican scheme of things. For this, when the time came, 
he was rewarded by his nephew with wealth and high office. Teodulo's 
antics, however, soon proved to be a liability, and his advice was sought 
less and less until he stopped playing any active role in Dominican poli- 
tics. He died in a sort of mild disgrace. Late in life he found, according to 
one of the unfriendly biographers (an assertion born out by fact), pleasure 
in the exhibition of pornographic motion pictures and in the erotic chas- 
ing of beautiful senoritas. "There were those who fled the now rotund, 
flabby Uncle Teodulo, to refuge in foreign legations," adds the same source. 

A further search for the truth concerning the early period of Trujillo's 
life shows that another of the fact-twisting "rewrite" men on the National 
Palace staff points out that the need to earn a livelihood led Trujillo into 
"other avenues." The careless euphemism calls for some elaboration. Dis- 
tasteful as it is, to do so I have to resort now to facts in the wide litera- 
ture on Trujillo that is the property of his detractors. To some degree, both 
the sources and the information need a careful weeding out. 

There is available, however, still another piece of friendly evidence 
bearing on Trujillo's youth. While in his middle twenties he was hired as a 
policeman by one of the sugar companies then operating in the country. 
In the interim he had taken as his wife in a Catholic Church ceremony one 
Aminta Ledesma. Aminta's name would have been erased from trujillista 
history books by now had not she borne Trujillo a fabulous daughter named 
Flor de Oro (Flower of Gold). The image of her sire, Miss Trujillo has 
earned some measure of international recognition, independent of her 
father's name, for running the matrimonial scale as if it were an exercise in 
velocity. Married seven times, Flor de Oro counts among her conquests the 
international lover Porfirio Rubirosa. 

According to official biographer Gilberto Sdnchez Lustrino, the "Cea~ 


tral Boca Chica" (a sugar mill Trajillo now owns) employed Rafael as 
Jefe de Orden or chief of the company's private police. However, an 
official memorandum admitting Trujillo to the Constabulary gives as Ms 
occupation at the sugar mill that of guarda campestre (forester). Anyway, 
whatever his title, the job was that of an informer or, as another biographer 
has dressed it up, "in charge of security arrangements." Trujillo's duty was 
to reveal labor discontent and to help stifle it. The ways and means of 
discharging his duties were left to his own invention and soon he was 
congratulated for a job well done. Sanchez Lustrino tells us that the future 
Generalissimo's "strength of character" as well as other qualities won him 
a commendation by the mill management. Considering that the rope was 
the favorite method of settling labor disputes in the sugar properties, it is 
not risky to assert that in Boca Chica, Trujillo received his elementary 
education in strongarm tactics. 

None of the friendly biographers, however, gives an account of how 
Trujillo happened to lose a job for which he was so well fitted. Albert 
C. Hicks, an American journalist and author of a book on Trujillo en- 
titled Blood in the Streets, reveals that Rafael's travels along "other ave- 
nues" were started around that time and that while controlling others he 
could not restrain himself, finally running afoul of justice. 

Hick's impartiality of judgment has been lately recognized by Trujillo, 
who hired his biographer for an investigation of the Galindez' case on the 
basis, as printed in American newspapers, of his alleged knowledge of the 
Dominican situation. However, if Trujillo went to jail, as Hicks asserts, it 
was for something not connected with his job, since in later days there 
has been produced the photostat of a letter of recommendation, addressed 
to the American military authorities, in which the manager of the Central 
Boca Chica, Antonio Trigo, praises his former employee. 

Nevertheless, it is necessary to state that in those days jobs were not too 
plentiful in the Dominican Republic and, where they existed at all, they 
brought a pittance. So, it is not strange that a gifted man like Trujillo 
would try to figure out easier ways to make a buck than working sixteen 
hours a day at a sugar mill. There were seemingly limitless opportunities 
in the field of forgery, cattle rustling and informing. The oldest profession 
as well provided almost princely positions to those willing to pimp a little. 
People who knew our man in those days claim that Trujillo proved to have 
little moral hesitation to work in any and all of these markets. 

Hicks, who interviewed many people regarding Trujillo's background, 
asserts that once when Rafael "got wind of three newly arrived and highly 
valued English imported saddles at the San Cristobal Agricultural Experi- 
ment Station (where he was a trainee) he stole them and later got caught 
with the goods." If this is true, there is no proof he was taken to court. 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 34 


a foreign military force, we can easily trace his sudden rise to power. It 
is an almost incredible story with much that is comic and much that is 
tragic, but the tone never drops from the melodramatic. 

What, for example, is more theatrical than the thunderous arrival of the 
United States Marine Corps? The year is 1916, and we find the leather- 
necks not in the Halls of Montezuma but on the beaches of the Dominican 
Republic. Their avowed mission is to "maintain domestic tranquillity," to 
make the country safe for foreign investors, and supposedly to teach 
Dominicans how to handle their own financial matters. 

There is not much evidence that they accomplished all these aims. But 
there is no doubt that they performed an unforeseen feat: the launching of 
Trujillo's successful career. The architect of the Dominican Republic's 
future seemingly had a very gloomy future himself up to the moment of 
United States intervention in his country. Whatever the juggling of the 
historical facts by his Academy of History no one can find reasonable evi- 
dence to refute the percipient Galindez statement: "It was the landing of 
the American Marines which brought him (Trujillo) his opportunity to 
rise from obscurity." The American columnist Murray Kempton, of the 
New York Post, subscribes to the same theory. Says he: "It is odd to think 
that the legend of this national hero began with his entreaty to serve a for- 
eign force in his own country." In the Dominican Republic itself it is 
common belief that without the American occupation Trujillo would have 
sunk into oblivion as a minor underworld figure. 

The supporters of the latter contention stress the fact that at the time 
when the Marines started to organize the Policta National Dominicana or 
National Constabulary, Trujillo was suffering from either one of two calam- 
ities. If he was not actually in jail, he was out of a job. 

Albert Hicks asserts that, with the Marines already in Santo Domingo, 
Trujillo tried his hand at forgery, and was sentenced to a short term in 
jail. To corroborate this charge I have found nothing but hearsay, although 
the American writer Ernest Gruening, a man of experience in Caribbean 
affairs, confirmed the story in an article written for the Nation. Said he; 
"In his early days young Trujillo ran afoul of the law on more than one 
occasion. He was tried and convicted of theft, sentenced to and served a 
term in jail. He was convicted and served another term for forgery. For 
still other offenses his arrest was sought but managed to escape punish- 
ment by temporary flight from the country." 

The lack of documentary evidence is not strange. Trujillo has had years 


to clothe his origins in mystery, and as the sole custodian of all the records 
in the Dominican Republic, he has been able to conceal his early life 
pretty much as he pleases. People remember the strange fire that in 1927 
destroyed the Supreme Court building, where all criminal records were kept 
at the time. 

A few solid facts about this period can be ascertained. Unquestionably 
one of Trujillo's uncles was once more in a position to help. Teodulo had 
developed a close friendship with an American customs receivership of- 
ficer named James J. McLean. Initiated during night-long drinking sessions 
at an isolated Customs house along the Haitian border, the acquaintance- 
ship evolved into a full literary partnership, with both men writing in col- 
laboration a leaflet on the Haitian-Dominican frontier entitled Datos His- 
toricos sobre la Frontera Dominicano-Haitiana. People who knew them 
both say that McLean was absolutely charmed by Teodulo's conversation. 
Thus, when shortly after their arrival the Marines appointed McLean a 
major in the Dominican Constabulary, the Family tried to take advantage 
of their contacts with the former customs official. While searching for a 
suitable job Rafael asked his uncle to put in a good word for him with the 
major, which Teodulo did. 

"It was shortly after being released from jail that he (Trujillo) met 
Colonel McClean (sic) through his Uncle Teodulo," narrates Hicks. He 
adds that McLean "when sufficiently sober, found a profound satisfaction 
in the company of harlots. Rafael, immediately recognizing a job he could 
fill, played the pimp to the chief of the constabulary." 

Whatever its immediate consequences the moment of introduction be- 
tween Trujillo and McLean, as accomplished by Teodulo, proved to be a 
turning-point in Dominican history. At first Trujillo was at the service of 
McLean, but once connected with the occupation forces he made himself 
equally useful to other American officers. For his willingness to please, the 
Marines' command considered Rafael good material and soon he was to 
climb up the military ladder. He was assigned to serve as a guide and in- 
former to the Marines' forces operating in the eastern part of the country, 
a region he was familiar with since the days when he worked for the 
Central Boca Chica. 

Someone who remembers well that epoch a person whose name I 
cannot reveal because he still lives in Santo Domingo assured me that 
Trujillo served under Captain Merckle, a man whose name has become 
infamous in Dominican history, if not in the annals of the U.S. Marines 
Corps. Trujillo took naturally to his role as informer. It was in his blood 
since his paternal grandfather, Jose Trujillo Monagas, had discharged much 
the same duties for the Spanish police in Cuba. 

There are several accounts of Captain Merckle's depredations against 
Dominican nationals written by Americans and also a set of official docu- 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 36 

ments pertaining to a U.S. Senate investigation. Benjamin Sumner Welles, 
distinguished American diplomat who wrote Naboth's Vineyard, has this 
to say: "While it is therefore difficult to reach any definite conclusion as 
to the actual extent and number of the more flagrant outrages perpetrated, 
it is a fact that a policy of repression was carried out by the Forces of 
Occupation over a protracted period in the eastern Provinces of the 
Dominican Republic which was inherently unwise, which reacted primarily 
upon peaceful civilians, and as the result of which many atrocities were 
undoubtedly committed." 

Another competent observer, the historian and economist Melvin M. 
Knight, says in Americans in Santo Domingo: "A number of Dominicans 
we may be certain that nobody knows exactly how many were put to 
death off-hand by the Marines. And some were tortured without ever hav- 
ing their day in court at all." 

In fairness, however, it must be said that Captain Merckle's end was 
appropriate to his corrupt practice. "The assassinations by Captain Merckle 
were repudiated by his superiors and he committed suicide while awaiting 
for trial," asserts Knight. Knight's version is supported by Sumner Welles 
in his aforementioned book. Nevertheless if Merckle himself paid dearly 
for his cruelty and sadism, his methods, unfortunately, did not disappear 
with him. In young Trujillo he left behind a keen, proficient disciple who 
has carried on the sadistic tradition long after his teacher's name is no 
longer remembered. 

There can be no question that the participation of Trujillo in Merckle's 
acts of terror was a major contribution to the formation of his character. 
While serving as a guide and mastering the content of his military manual, 
the would-be Benefactor was also assimilating his first lessons in dictator- 
ship. He learned that military rule cannot bear criticism and how to deal 
with offenses against authority. Moreover, the late Captain's forms of tor- 
ture and arbitrary "justice" have been perfected by "the Chief" and used 
on a larger, more terrifying scale. 

With Merckle's suicide, Trujillo's period of irregular service ended. The 
Marines were then organizing a permanent Dominican Constabulary force 
in preparation for the eventual end of the Military Government. Trujillo 
applied for enrollment and was accepted. In December 1918 Trujillo re- 
ceived word that he was going to be appointed a commissioned officer and 
on January 11, 1919, according to his official military biographer Lieu- 
tenant Ernesto Vega y Pagan, "Colonel C. F. Williams, Commandant of 
the Constabulary Guard, sent Lieutenant Trujillo his appointment and 
oath." Once again Trujillo's guardian was Major McLean. He was in charge 
of processing the application and no objections were recorded. 

How much gratitude Trujillo felt for McLean is illustrated by the fol- 
lowing. Eventually, drunkeness caught up with the Major and he was 


dishonorably discharged from the service. Relieved of his military responsi- 
bilities, McLean stayed on in the Dominican Republic. He was still around 
in the sugar mill district long after the withdrawal of the Marines in 1924. 
This was a slight miscalculation for which the former Major was bound to 
pay with his own life. "The Colonel [sic] who knew more intimate secrets 
about the rapidly rising Rafael than probably any one man, was murdered 
in Barahona province," asserts Albert Hicks. 

At this point impartial observers express amazement that a man with 
supposedly such a besmirched reputation as Trujillo's could so easily join 
and stay in the National Constabulary. Many feel inclined to give "the Big 
One" the benefit of the doubt. However, acceptance of TrujiUo by the 
Marines can hardly be interpreted as a clean bill of health. First, past 
services entitled him to a certain measure of gratitude. Second, due to the 
fact that the right kind of people were showing no eagerness to enroll, the 
Marines were facing rather a tough time in the formation of the Constab- 
ulary cadres. As a matter of fact, according to people in the know, almost 
the only question asked of an aspirant was whether he could read and write. 
Surnner Welles writes that "while no great difficulty was encountered in 
recruiting the number of privates required, it was found almost impossible, 
from the outset, to persuade Dominicans of the necessary education and 
standing in the community to serve as officers in this force under the Mil- 
itary Government." It might be said, therefore, that the blame for letting 
disreputable people into the Army falls on the Dominicans themselves. 
Who else but such characters would like to serve in a force known as an 
instrument of oppression in the service of a foreign government? 

From August 15 to December 21, 1921, TrujiUo received all his formal 
military education at an "Academy" established in Haina, near the cap- 
ital, by the Marines in order to train officers of the future Dominican Army. 
"On December 22, 1921, Second Lieutenant TrujiUo left the Haina Mil- 
itary Academy after a briUiant period of training. His rank of Second 
Lieutenant was confirmed," writes the official military biographer. 

During the time elapsed since his enroUment TrujiUo had acquired a 
new protector to replace McLean whose drinking habits made his future 
uncertain even in such an outfit as the Constabulary. This time Trujillo's 
promoter was a professional Marine officer, one Thomas E. Watson, then 
serving in the constabulary with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. The friend- 
ship, which proved everlasting, was very profitable for TrujiUo then and in 
the years to foUow. Watson rose in rank and influence within the American 
military circles; at the time of his retirement after World War II he was 
a Lieutenant General. 

Prior to "graduation" on January 12, 1921 TrajiUo saw combat 
service against the gavilleros or "bandits" the name then given to re- 
sistant groups of Dominican patriots in the eastern part of the country. 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 38 

He participated in a military engagement at La Noria and his deportment 
under fire obviously pleased his commanding officer. "His conduct prior 
and during the engagement was excellent," reads the Marine report. 

Although he had been reprimanded on September 4, 1920, for slowness 
in reporting escape of a civil prisoner, his service aptitudes were con- 
sidered "excellent." Also "excellent" was his interest in and vocation for 
his career. His personal characteristics were described as "calm, even- 
tempered, forceful, active, bold and painstaking." He was also labeled as a 
man of "initiative, intelligence and good judgment." This efficiency report 
bears the signature of T. E. Watson, Major. 

Due to the glaring fact that his heroic deed at La Noria was committed 
against Trujillo's own countrymen, this glowing commendation has be- 
come the source of sharp official embarrassment in ensuing years. Finally, 
the citation, like the childhood nickname before, has been removed from 
the Dominican school texts. La Noria is not even recalled in the law which 
awarded Trujillo in 1955 the made-to-order "Captain General Santana" 
decoration for bravery. Stripped of the only citation for conduct under fire 
to his credit, this distinctive military order might as well have been awarded 
to Trujillo for catching butterflies. To obviate the point, the legislation be- 
stowing the medal clothed as acts of bravery otherwise meaningless and 
quite innocuous incidents (sometimes of a political nature) of "the Big 
One's" life. The La Noria engagement is today a closely guarded skeleton 
in Trujillo's closet surely the most crowded closet in the Hemisphere. 

During the remaining years of American military occupation Trujillo 
acquired, if we are to believe his military biographer, a reputation as a 
trouble shooter. According to Vega Pagan, when our hero was Command- 
ing Officer of the Sixth Company in San Francisco de Macoris in 1922, 
"there was a border incident in the northern sector of the country. Part 
of our armed forces, under the command of Captain Trujillo, was mobilized 
to that place in order to reestablish peace and order." Then, less than a 
year later, he was hurried to Barahona. "This was due to the fact," asserts 
Vega, "that a group of outlaws were disturbing the peace in Enriquillo." 
As an afterthought the biographer makes a remarkably pointed observa- 
tion: "The situation was similar to that which had occurred before in the 
eastern sector of the country." 

After the Marines left, Trujillo rapidly rose in rank and reputation 
within the Policia Nacional Dominicana. Between the years 1924 and 
1926 he rose from Captain to Lieutenant Colonel. His promotion to Major 
is marked by a strange story of violence. A certain Major C6sar Lora was 
a step ahead of Captain Trujillo, both in rank and seniority. This meant 
that as long as Major Lora was in the Army Trujillo would be forced to 
trail him. An enormous inconvenience for Trujillo, particularly since Major 
Lora was young and ambitious as well. 


Soon, however. Major Lora's amorous antics provided Trujillo with the 
awaited opportunity to get his rival out of the way. Hearing that the Major 
was carrying on an illicit love affair with an Army dentist's wife, Trajillo 
subtly revealed to the scorned husband out of pure friendship, of course 
not only his wife's infidelity but also the meeting-place of the clandestine 
lovers. One day, Lieutenant Sanabia, the outraged husband, shot to death 
both Major Lora and Mrs. Sanabia. That day he unwittingly paved the way 
for the fulfillment of Trujillo's ambitions. "The Chief's" rivals, thereafter, 
were only old and bungling bureaucrats whom he could easily calum- 
niate, blackmail and frame-up. Biographer Sanchez Lustrino wrote this 
appropriate epitaph for the murdered officer: "On February 23 Major Lora 
was killed and that marks the beginning of Trujillo's brilliant military 
career ..." 

Promoted to a position of responsibility as military commander of the 
Northern Department, comprising the northern half of the country, Major 
Trujillo further distinguished himself as an able administrator and a clever 
schemer. He soon caught the eye of the aging President, General Horacio 
Vasquez, and thereafter his career rolled along by itself. 

By exposing the shortcomings of his superiors, Trujillo rose to the high- 
est military command. By 1928 he had elbowed his way to the post of 
Chief of Staff of the newly renamed "National Army." He was now a 
brigadier general and a feared and trusted aide of President Vasquez. Says 
Nanita: "Trujillo was already the most powerful man in the country. Hold- 
ing in his hands control over the armed forces, he also controlled every- 
thing else." Moreover, ambition had already set upon the hitherto ob- 
scure character, who was now ready to set off for higher worlds to conquer. 

As trained by the American Marines the Army was meant to be a non- 
political force. After becoming its chief, Trujillo turned it into an instru- 
ment of personal power. Through adroit manipulation of officers' promo- 
tions, the General further stripped its rosters of all unreliable elements, 
meaning those who showed no willingness to conform. 

It is true that Trujillo enforced rigid discipline within the military com- 
pounds. Besides he did not tolerate the slightest vacillation in the personal 
loyalty he expected from his men. As long as they showed unwavering 
loyalty toward him, Trujillo guaranteed his faithful officers security and 
protection, even against criminal prosecution. The case of Major Ernesto 
Perez illustrates this point. Arraigned on charges of raping and kidnapping 
a young society girl from the town of Montecristi, the Major found refuge 
in Trujillo's own headquarters. Disobeying a Presidential decree sacking 
Perez, the General kept his ousted subordinate out of the reach of ordi- 
nary justice at the Ozama fortress. Eventually, the change of regime saved 
Major Perez from facing trial and today he is a retired Brigadier General 
and wealthy businessman. 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 40 

Nonetheless TrujiEo was making his mark as a rigid disciplinarian who 
brooked no nonsense. Blind obedience to his commands and an unre- 
stricted cult of his personality were the main props of Trujillo's sway over 
the Army. The extent to which the cult of Trujillo's personality had al- 
ready infiltrated the Army is demonstrated by a seemingly minor incident 
in the small town of San Francisco de Macoris. Lieutenant Rafael Espaillat 
with his commanding general's approval named a little open space in front 
of the city's fort "Trujillo Square." Espaillat, a man who certainly got wind 
early of his boss's developing megalomania, rose to be a Major General. 
Retired from the armed forces, he now warms a chair in Congress. 

With Trujillo's elevation to the post of head of the Army the American 
dream of creating a "non-partisan" force had all but backfired, but this 
neither President Vasquez nor his civilian head of the Army the Secretary 
of National Defense seemed to realize, If they did, they kept their thoughts 
to themselves. Complacency over Trujillo's antics reached a high point 
when the Government granted upon request by a group of Army officers 
the public awarding to Trujillo of a special medal of honor on the oc- 
casion of completing his first ten years of service. The President made him- 
self available to present the medal at a parade January 17, 1929. 

The chicken hatched during the American military occupation days was 
coming to roost. As Ernest Gruening put it, elaborating in terms of the 
Dominican national pastime, "the chicken had turned out to be a fighting 
cock, equipped with the long, sharp spurs that kill." 



Rafael L. Trujillo had climbed in 1928 to the summit of military life in 
the Dominican Republic. 

It was a far cry from the squalid surroundings of his childhood. He had 
not only become a general, but a rich man too. However, Trujillo was 
not satisfied with his position in life. The journey from his childhood sur- 
roundings was far from completed. President Vazquez, growing ineffectual 
after more than thirty years in politics, was now little more than a figure- 
head of a confused, decentralized administration. There were, therefore, 
higher plateaus to scale, and politics as well as society were bigger games 
for an ambitious young man. With the sweet smell of recent success in his 
nostrils, Trujillo's hand at first stealthily reached into the field of society. 

As Chief of the Army the General now came frequently in contact with 
the most elevated spheres of the Dominican social and political world. 
However, it was implicit from the outset that "the Chiefs" presence in 
these refined areas was simply out of regard to his rank. Dominican so- 


ciety was not willing to give him full recognition it was the military dress 
which was accepted, not the man wearing it. 

To the more discriminating figures in the capital the General was still 
Chapita. This fact came into the open when Trujillo forced a showdown 
with Ms application for membership in the old, exclusive Club Union, 
then the center of Dominican social life. As would be expected, "the 
Chief's" application was rejected almost unanimously. However, on that 
occasion the aristocrats underrated the power of Trujillo's ambition and 

If Trujillo was rankled by this social setback he did not brood over it. 
He conducted a tactical retreat but was more than ever determined to bull 
his way into the select circle. To force his acceptance he resorted to his 
military talents. He mapped a campaign to outflank the aristocratic camp. 
He sought to rally with the help of an effective though time-worn device 
and his frustrated ambitions were soon focused on the virginal form of 
a young lady of social standing but no wealth named Bienvenida Ricardo. 
The good-looking General started courting proud but poor Miss Ricardo. 
Overwhelmed with costly presents she finally started looking in his direc- 
tion. The promise of an early marriage won her. Before complete surrender 
could be accomplished there was, however, one more obstacle to surmount: 
the prospective groom was himself a married man. 

Trujillo's first wife, the humble and colorless Aminta Ledesma, made 
things simple. She gave the General an uncontested divorce, henceforth suf- 
fering absolute banishment. 1 

Once Aminta was out of the way, Trujillo made Miss Ricardo his second 
wife. A religious wedding had to be ruled out since he had married the 
first time according to the Catholic rites, but the civil ceremony was per- 
formed with the pomp and style becoming people of high station. The 
aristocrats, however, refrained from attendance. 

Notwithstanding the rebuff, Trujillo felt himself in a position to launch 
a new assault upon the Club Union. Again fortune refused to be at his side 
and the early skirmishes forecast defeat. However, with Bienvenida's name 
as a persuader and with the help of dissension within the hostile ranks of 
the aristocracy, Trujillo's longing for social success was finally crowned 
with victory. Invaluable was the assistance of the influential lawyer Dr. 
Jacinto B. Peynado, a newly acquired friend, who used his powers to push 
the General's name through. 

Peynado, though a very prominent practitioner of his profession, had 
no wealth and a large family to feed. Shortly before his open sponsorship 
of Trujillo's application became known, people heard that the General 
had retained him for a considerable fee. Thus started a mutually reward- 

1 Though the first Mrs. Trujillo still lives in the Dominican capital in the company 
of her daughter Flor de Oro, few people in the country are aware of her existence. 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 42 

ing association, one of the few lasting friendships between Trujillo and a 
collaborator. Prior to his death in 1940, Peynado held the post of puppet 
President of the Dominican Republic for two years (1938-1940). 

Although eventually admitted into the highest social circle, Trujillo did 
not forgive the resistance put up by the elite. Despite his marked desire 
to be acknowledged a born aristocrat, the Benefactor has displayed since 
that time an almost fanatic bitterness toward the members of the old social 
families, whom he has humiliated in every conceivable manner. He de- 
cided to destroy the Club Union but not without first forcing abasement 
upon its members. Upon seizing power in 1930 one of Trujillo's first acts 
was to sponsor membership applications by all his Army officers stationed 
at the capital. Needless to say, all passed. Then Trujillo had himself elected 
to the club's presidency. But he did not feel that the old score was yet 
paid off, so as a further humiliation he forced the dissolution of the highly 
respected organization. Then the secret police politely advised the proud 
aristocrats that they should found a new club to take the place of their 
esteemed institution its name to be the Club Presidente Trujillo. 

This was promptly done and the board of directors of the new club was 
studded with names belonging to the loftiest Dominican families. It was a 
bitter lesson for the Dominican elite, but its members were to know greater 
bitterness as the years passed and "the Chief" expanded his powers. "The 
day we blackballed Trujillo.," said one of the men who did it, "we de- 
stroyed the Club Union as surely as if we had set fire to its building." We 
also destroyed our own class, he might have added; they had certainly 
showed more taste than prudence in their opposition to "the Chief." As 
a result, there are to this day retaliations carried out against the surviving 
members of the old aristocracy. 

After subduing the Dominican Four Hundred, Trujillo revealed that 
he was personally more aristocratic than all of them. To give this newly 
unearthed fact the fullest possible circulation, "the Chief" turned to his 
writers. They announced that the General had noble blood in his veins. 
On his paternal side, it was discovered, Trujillo was a descendant of the 
purest Spanish nobility. His maternal blood was of equal, if not a more 
imposing, strain. Julia Molina, his mother, was a direct descendant of a 
Napoleonic courtier Joseph Chevalier, Marquis of Philborou. 

Yet, before accomplishing such a triumphant vindication, "the Chief" 
had to surmount a few stumbling blocks. Early in 1929 his military career 
came close to a severe setback. A group of American financial experts, 
headed by former U.S. Vice President Charles Dawes, while conducting a 
survey of the Dominican Government's administrative methods, discovered 
some irregularities in the Army. The true nature of the discovery was never 
made public, but some people assert that what was found was nothing 
less than a $500,000 deficit in the Army's expenditures. Other say that 


because of the exaggerated expenditures and rampant graft under Trajillo's 
administration the Commission suggested an Army clean-up. 

Although no direct charges appeared in the commission's final report, 
the fact is that the greatest emphasis was put upon urging a reduction of 
the country's military budget. Faced with the worst crisis of his career 
General Trujillo decided to take the bull by the horns. He set off a 
wave of reprisals against those who had cooperated with the Commission 
in its efforts to dig out the facts. Captain Eduardo Baez and other officers 
fled the country to avoid the vindictiveness of their commanding general. 
Trujillo followed through with a bolder maneuver. Within hours of the 
discovery he was engaged in an astounding piece of political blackmail. 
With the help of Army spies and informers (of whom there were plenty at 
Trujillo's command in those days), he spread the rumor that in his pos- 
session there was evidence pertaining to grave irregularities in several 
other Government departments. He also let it be known that he was fully 
prepared to make them public should charges against him be pressed. 

Whether or not Trujillo's maneuver was a desperate bluff is anyone's 
guess, since no one dared to call it. As Trujillo had calculated, the Ad- 
ministration, then faced with a violent opposition campaign conducted 
through the free press, could in no way afford a dangerous controversy 
within its own ranks. All talk of taking action against Trujillo was 
promptly dropped. 

On the other hand, to pacify the opposition which was in a position 
to use the story without fear of retaliatory exposes Trujillo initiated 
a series of political contacts with its leaders, laying the groundwork for 
the successful uprising that brought the Vasquez regime down. 

Trujillo's "Minitrue" has since conveniently dressed up for posterity 
the Dawes Commission incident. It was just much ado about nothing. It 
happened that confronted with conflicting views on how to cut the Army's 
budget, the General submitted a magnificent plan allowing a fair curtail- 
ment of certain expenditures without sacrificing the "system of organiza- 
tion" prevailing in the armed forces. Trujillo's plan brought a telegram 
from President Vasquez, then vacationing at San Jose de las Matas, ex- 
pressing approval "without reservation." 

The re-write staff brushed aside, without even a passing reference to 
refute it, the much-talked-about subject at the time of the rackets un- 
earthed to Trujillo's discomfiture. Among the things then discovered was 
that Army laundry was being handled in the establishment owned by 
Trujillo's present wife and then Ms mistress. The rates charged were 
exorbitant. Of the $16 paid to the soldiers each month, it was estimated 
that from $8 to $10 went to laundry bills. Soldiers with courage to pro- 
test were sent to the guard-house or simply disappeared. Furthermore, 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 44 

the army rolls contained many straw men who received full pay but never 
shouldered a rifle. 

Defense through blackmail proved almost fatal to Trujillo. Right after 
his defiant campaign of rumors, the General went through what was prob- 
ably the most critical period of his career. His aggressive attitude had 
brought upon him the hatred of powerful men and there was a group 
within the Administration ready to take advantage of the earliest set of 
favorable circumstances to trip up the rising General. Confronted with his 
enemies' desire to stop him, Trujillo knew that time was running short. 
As a desperate gamble, "the Chief" thought of throwing Ms hat into the 
ring of political rough-and-tumble. In a roundabout way, by the honesty 
of its investigation, the Dawes Commission unwittingly set the General 
upon a new course of action. 

First thing to decide was which way to address his efforts. The choice 
did not prove difficult. The already antagonized Government elite would 
have nothing to do with him. They were already in power and there was 
little he could offer them. 

For their part, the opposition leaders though desperately in need of help 
were not receptive at the outset. Nor were they willing to give recognition 
to a newcomer without prestige or background, especially at a moment 
when mounting popular dissatisfaction with President Vasquez aroused 
great expectations. Government prestige was at a low ebb, since Vasquez 
had just announced the unpopular decision of accepting nomination for 
another four-year period starting in 1930. 

Notwithstanding that his initial secret overtures to the opposition had 
convinced Trujillo that his name meant nothing outside the Army circles, 
his position, though difficult, was not hopeless. In any Latin American 
country, whenever there is a showdown between the Government and a 
disarmed opposition, it is the Army which holds the balance of power 
and Trujillo was the Army. 

To exploit possibilities to the limit and to further his own political am- 
bitions, the General decided to play both ends against the middle. From 
the beginning, Trujillo's dealings in politics were marked by double-cross- 
ing and sharp deals. To begin with, while swearing steadfast loyalty to 
V&squez he was dealing with the opposition behind closed doors. Through 
trusted go-betweens he soon advised the opposition that short of open 
armed revolt it could count on Trujillo's sympathy. And even armed revolt 
was open for consideration, provided he was duly taken into account. 

At the end of 1929 President Vasquez' health forced the aging states- 
man to make a trip to the United States for medical treatment. Before 
leaving, the President was advised by a few of his closest associates to 
get rid of the Chief of Staff of the Army. However, at a last-minute inter- 
view Trujillo managed to convince the President of his unfaltering loyalty. 


The General reportedly promised he would look faithfully after the Gov- 
ernment's interests in the President's absence. 

On the night of Vasquez* departure occurred an incident which throws 
light upon Trajillo's willingness to fulfill his promises. Receiving a sum- 
mons from acting President Dr. Jose Dolores Alfonseca to appear at the 
Presidential Mansion, TrajiUo flatly refused to comply with the order. 
He cagily gave ill health as an excuse. Upon second thought he decided 
otherwise and went to the Palace in the company of a group of heavily 
armed Army officers, 

"The Chief's" unnecessary display of force touched off unfavorable pub- 
licity. Knowing that he could not yet afford an open clash with the 
Administration, Trujillo decided to retrace his steps. To avoid losing face 
either with the Government or the opposition, the General set himself 
upon a devious course. On one hand, he increased his secret contacts with 
the opposition, through a young journalist named Rafael Vidal, then 
serving a short jail term under Trujillo's custody for killing in a duel a 
hireling of the Vasquez regime. Encouraged by Trujillo the opposition 
parties gathered strength under the leadership of a forceful orator and 
lawyer Rafael Estrella Urena. For the time being Trujillo considered it 
prudent to advise Estrella Urena, through Vidal, that he viewed with 
sympathy the opposition leader's aspirations to the Presidency. 

On the other hand, to erase further doubts from Alfonseca's mind, 
Trujillo released a public statement that the "Army always acts under 
orders from the Central Government and all its actions are an echo of the 
thoughts and actions of the Executive in conformity with the Constitution 
and the laws." 

The statement was issued November 27, 1929. There are good grounds 
to believe that about the same time took place the first shipments of arms 
from Santo Domingo to the opposition stronghold of Santiago. 

Upon Vasquez' return to the country, January 6, 1930, some of his 
aides warned him anew on Trujillo's dealing with the opposition. Again 
Vasquez sent for the General only to hear the same rigmarole from his 
subordinate's lips. This time there was, however, a slight change in the 
proceedings. Vasquez asked his informants to repeat their charges in the 
presence of Trujillo. The men wavered and ultimately failed to substantiate 
theii previous charges. Then Trujillo renewed his loyalty vows to President 
Vasquez and, tongue in cheek, returned to Ms headquarters. 

He had saved his job for the last time. Shortly afterward, on February 
23, a revolution broke out in Santiago. 




been receiving reports from the American Legation in the Dominican 
Republic that political unrest was rife and revolutionary disturbances 
should be expected. By February 22, 1930 news from the Cibao region 
the rich agricultural valley in the northern section of the country became 
more specific. The Legation had been given definite intimation of the im- 
minence of an outbreak. 

The next night was one of unaccustomed activity in the usually slumber- 
ing city of Santiago. In the early evening groups of armed men, appar- 
ently from nowhere, started to gather at several points, while the inhabit- 
ants, sensing impending trouble, shut themselves up in their homes. Soldiers 
and policemen were conspicuously absent from the streets. 

At zero hour, different groups began marching in the darkness toward 
the San Luis fortress, where the army garrison was concentrated. Shout- 
ing revolutionary slogans and firing into the air, several bands converged 
upon the fort's main gate. Strangely enough, the big doors of the sixteenth- 
century stronghold were thrown wide open from the inside, and the as- 
sailants came in without a fight. Frightened neighbors heard a few volleys 
but these were fired in celebration of the bloodless victory. 

The "civilian" revolution (something that later has been made to ap- 
pear as a tremendous popular upheaval) had thus been launched, under 
the leadership of Rafael Estrella Urena, a belligerent, scathing local orator 
and firebrand politician, head of the oppositionist Partido Republicano. 
Tired of airing his protests, Estrella had decided not to wait for the na- 
tional elections to be held on May 16, less than three months away. Actual 
command of the revolutionary forces was given to Estrella's uncle, General 
Jose Estrella, an old cutthroat and guerrilla chieftain. 

Estrella Urena knew quite well that as things stood he did not have a 


chance of being elected President, the thing he wanted most. There was a 
widespread feeling of dissatisfaction with the current administration; cor- 
ruption was rampant and economic mismanagement had brought the coun- 
try to the brink of disaster, but it seemed likely that all this would add 
up to nothing in the face of the popularity of aging President Horacio 

Vasquez' immense prestige, linked with the Government's political ma- 
chinery plus a very compliant electoral law, made the President a sure 
bet in his bid for reelection. Thus, the restless political chieftain from 
Santiago found himself facing the only alternative for further political ad- 
vancement left open to those Latin American candidates without a chance 
at the polls; an Army-backed revolution. 

To insure the latter course contacts were established with General Tru- 
jillo, Chief of Staff of the Army, who showed willingness to cooperate 
provided the secret would be kept. Though unknown to the opposition, 
Trujillo's decision to deal with the democratic opposition had nothing to 
do with ideals or principles, but with his well-founded fear that his days 
in the Army were numbered. What followed was a natural development 
the hopeless politician and the threatened General leagued together to 
overthrow the legitimate Government. 

By accepting the cooperation of the Army chief, Estrella had unwit- 
tingly given the General a much needed political foothold. General Tru- 
jillo, wisely enough, played no role of leadership in the early stages of the 
alliance, thus making Estrella believe he would be satisfied to remain head 
of the Army. Furthermore, in his dealings with the disgruntled opposition 
Trujillo took care not to show his face openly, making all contacts and 
arrangements through civilian go-betweens, namely, two of Trujillo's 
closest friends and advisers the journalist Rafael Vidal and the lawyer 
Roberto Despradel. These two, or at least Vidal, were seemingly inspired 
by idealistic motivation and were doomed to be victims, in the long run, of 
Trujillo's lack of gratitude. 

The tight secrecy over the dealings between Trujillo and Estrella Urena 
explains why, though otherwise correct in their appraisal of the situation, 
the American diplomats stationed in the Dominican Republic failed at 
the outset of the revolution to recognize the presence of a behind-the- 
scenes manipulator. Not that they had never suspected the personal long- 
ings for power of that young, shrewd upstart named Rafael Trujillo, It 
was that only last December they had received from the General's own 
lips assurances of his irrevocable loyalty to President Vasquez. They sim- 
ply could not believe he was a perfect double-crosser. 

Word of Santiago's uprising did not reach the capital until the morning 
of February 24. The report was that the San Luis fortress had fallen to 
Estrella's rebels "after a fight." The Government was thrown into con- 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 48 

fusion and immediately made contact with the American Legation to 
arrange for the personal security of the President. 

In that way the American Minister Charles B. Curtis and his Third 
Secretary John Moors Cabot (currently American Ambassador to Colom- 
bia) were cast in the role of mediators between the Government and the 
rebel leaders. 1 When advised of the role Curtis and Cabot were playing, 
Acting Secretary of State J. P. Cotton authorized them to offer in the 
name of the American Government their good offices. They were further 
warned to handle the situation with utmost care and without a show of 
force. "If you can do it," asserted Cotton, "it will materially strengthen 
our position in the Dominican Republic and in the rest of Latin America." 

Nevertheless, it was very reluctantly that on the morning of February 
24 the American Minister granted asylum in the Legation to the President 
and his wife as well as the Vice President, Dr. Jose Dolores Alfonseca, on 
the grounds as stated by the Secretary of Foreign Affairs Dr. Francisco J. 
Peynado that their lives were in danger from revolutionists coming by 
automobile from Santiago. 

Finding it difficult to believe that there was any real danger to the lives 
of the President and his wife, Curtis told Peynado that he thought it most 
desirable that General Vasquez should either remain in the Presidential 
Mansion or take refuge in the Ozama fortress, where Army headquarters 
were located. 

Notwithstanding Curtis's advice, an hour later the President, his wife, 
the Vice President and a big entourage of high Government officials came 
to the Legation. In the interim Curtis had telephoned General Trujillo at 
the fortress, receiving once again the latter's assurances of his full loyalty 
to the President. 

"When, therefore," wrote Curtis in a report to the State Department, 
"the President spoke to me of my recommendation that he go to the fort, 
I assured him that he could depend on the loyalty of General Trujillo." 
Subsequently Curtis cabled to inform Washington that "the National Army 
and its Commander in Chief are true to the President." 

Upon discussing the matter further with his companions, President Vas- 
quez left the Legation, followed by the rest of his party except Mrs. 
Vasquez. Thereafter the First Lady spent each night and most of each 
day in the Legation until the morning of February 28. 

What happened immediately after Vasquez left the Legation is not clear. 
To unearth the facts, if this be at all possible, we have to dig deep under 
the muck of conflicting narrations. However, from the contradictory evi- 
dence it appears that Vasquez and his followers went from the Legation 

1 The American diplomats' first-hand accounts of what happened in the Dominican 
Republic during the revolutionary period are a treasure of contemporary information, 
upon which I have heavily leaned in recounting the early days of the regime. 


straight to the Presidential Mansion. Then the President not so trustful 
of his Chief of the Army's loyalty as the American Minister sent for 
General Trajillo. The General, feigning illness, sent word back from his 
headquarters at the Ozama fortress that he was confined to his bed. It 
was then that Vasquez' close advisers definitely warned him that Trujillo 
was the man behind Estrella. 

The President, who still had some of his celebrated youthful courage 
left, decided to go and see Trujillo in his own den. Arriving at the fortress, 
followed by a caravan of automobiles, Vasquez found that the General had 
commanded that only his car should be allowed within the premises. 

Chewing on this humiliation, the old President went into the fort with 
only a small group of aides. Yet, instead of finding Trujillo in a state of 
open rebellion as expected, the President found a humble collaborator. 
Meekly the General reiterated his loyalty to the Executive and agreed to 
send a party of soldiers to head off the rebels. At Vasquez' request, 
Colonel Jose Alfonseca (a distant relative of the Vice President) was 
called in to take command of the column. According to Curtis, late the 
following day Trujillo recalled Colonel Alfonseca and placed Colonel 
Simon Diaz in command of this force. 

The trujillista version of what happened that fateful morning, as ex- 
pounded by Lawrence de Besault, is simple enough. "The President," says 
de Besault, "rushed to the American Legation for refuge. Once there, he 
changed his mind, and sped to the Ozama fortress. Later he changed his 
mind once more, and returned to the Presidential Mansion." A confused 
child this poor President! 2 

At this point, however, we find a solid fact in the reports addressed by 
the American Minister to the State Department. On February 24, while 
the President was still at the fortress, Curtis called on him there. The dip- 
lomat wanted to ascertain whether the President was prepared to yield to 
any of the demands being made by Estrella Urena and other revolutionary 
leaders from Santiago. During the conference it was agreed that the Vice 
President would resign, the Government would get Congress to pass a 
law annulling all the amendments to the Electoral Law of 1924, and the 
question of the withdrawal of President Vasquez' candidacy for reelec- 
tion would be taken under consideration. Curtis took advantage of the 
occasion to have another private talk with Trujillo. Once more the General 
assured him of his loyalty to the President. 

On the same morning, John Moors Cabot left for Santiago to see the 

2 The picture of Vasquez as a petulant old man, unaware until the very end of the 
imminence of his fall, due to a popular uprising over government corruption and bad 
financial administration, is one of the main contributions of the trujillista propaganda 
to the literature of the period. Furthermore, Vasquez is depicted as a cowardly elder 
who finally thought only of flight to save his skin. No one would fight to defend such 
a corrupt regime* 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 50 

leaders of the revolution. He succeeded in talking with Estrella Urena, 
but could obtain no definite statements beyond a promise that a conference 
of rebel leaders would be called the following morning. 

On the evening of the same day the Secretary of Finance, Martin de 
Moya, told the Legation that the revolutionists were advancing on the city. 
De Moya informed Curtis that the President and Mrs. Vasquez desired 
now to take definite asylum in the Legation. The Minister answered he 
would gladly receive Mrs. Vasquez, but persuaded the President that "it 
was to his own best interest to go to the fort rather than to a foreign lega- 
tion." Whereupon once again Curtis telephoned Trujiilo. He was then 
informed by the General himself that the Government troops had been 
"outflanked and partly surrounded" by the revolutionary forces advancing 
upon the capital. 

When at six o'clock on the morning of the 25th no indication had been 
received of the entry of the revolutionists into the capital, Curtis decided 
to drive out in the direction of their former positions. Nineteen kilometers 
from the capital he found the Government forces. He had a short conversa- 
tion with Colonel Alfonseca, who showed him a note signed by the rebel 
commanders Generals Jose Estrella and Antonio Jorge, stating that they 
had agreed with Cabot not to advance or make any attack until the latter's 
return from Santiago. Alfonseca asserted that they had kept this agree- 
ment scrupulously. Trujiilo, therefore, had been caught in a lie. 

Upon his return to the Legation Curtis received a telephone call from 
Secretary de Moya. The President was coming to see him at the Legation. 
Vasquez arrived a few minutes later. "The President was extremely angry 
concerning the now quite obvious treason of Gen. Trujiilo," wrote Curtis. 
He noted that the President had told him that the night before he had 
found Trujiilo in the company of General Luis Felipe Vidal, described by 
Curtis as one of the President's "most bitter personal enemies." 

At this meeting with Curtis the President pointed out that with the Army 
unfaithful to him "he could not hope to accomplish anything but was 
resigning immediately." Curtis argued against what he thought were "pre- 
cipitate intentions" on the President's part. Later he was informed that 
Vasquez, impressed by his arguments, had decided not to resign. 

By then Curtis had in his possession additional data concerning the at- 
titude of the Army and its higher officers. "General Trujiilo," he reported 
to the State Department, "in spite of all the promises he made to my pred- 
ecessor, was disloyal to President Vasquez from the first moment after 
his (Vasquez') return to the country on January 6. 3 Probably in Decem- 

8 Trujillo's eulogists always take pains to assert that during the revolt the Chief of 
the Army, in order to avoid needless bloodshed, remained neutral in his military 
headquarters. "General Trujiilo," says biographer Lawrence de Besault, "remained at 
his post, waiting to carry out the orders of the government, but these were vacillating 
and confused. The President appeared to be terror-stricken by the menace of the 
throngs marching toward the capital." 


ber, he stripped the fort in Santo Domingo City (now Ciudad Trujillo) 
of practically all spare arms and shipped these arms to the fort in Santiago. 
He most certainly was in league with the revolutionists from the very be- 
ginning and never severed Ms connections with them." 

Curtis also heard that Colonel Simon Diaz, the commander of the 
fortress at Santiago (conveniently absent from Ms post the night of Feb- 
ruary 23 ) , had planned to permit the seizure of San Luis fortress on the 
evening of February 8. The action was postponed owing to the fact that 
Curtis Mmself happened to spend that night in Santiago. 

On the 26th the main body of the rebel forces two or three hundred 
strong entered the capital. Trujillo's troops, far superior in number and 
armament, remained within the fortress. In this way the General was 
keeping to the letter his earlier promises to the American diplomatic rep- 
resentatives. He kept a scrupulous "non-intervention" attitude during the 
whole revolutionary period, staying at the fort in Santo Domingo, which 
he nominally held in the name of the Government and to which he did 
not permit the entry of any revolutionists, or, for that matter, of any all- 
out Government supporters. 

Commenting on Trujillo's dubious conduct, the American Minister 
said: "It is safe to say that if General Trujillo had been truly loyal to the 
Government, the revolution could not have succeeded would probably 
not have broken out; the quantity of arms in the fort of Santiago would 
hardly have been worth seizing and certainly the revolutionists would not 
have had more arms than the Government." 

Trujillo's treason upset Curtis to the extent that on February 26 he 
sent a message to the State Department that "it appears Mghly desirable 
that General Trujillo be not named on the list of any party. It is further- 
more necessary that General Trujillo and Colonel Diaz, who has likewise 
been unfaithful, be removed from the Army, but this will hardly be ac- 
complished without the assistance of the Legation." 

By February 27 (Dominican Independence Day) the Government's 
position was untenable. Although only two days before Curtis had ex- 
pressed fears of a "serious danger of unorganized street fighting and riot- 
ing," the people had stayed away from this peculiar "civilian" revolution. 
The average Dominican remained at home and at no moment did any riots, 
demonstrations or disorders occur. A strange, self-imposed order prevailed 
during the whole process, as if the people wanted to show their total 
divorce from the coup. "Loss of life and damage to property seems to have 
been very small indeed," reported Curtis. Later he asserted that there had 
been no bloodshed or property losses. 

On the morning of the 27th began a long series of conversations be- 
tween Vasquez and Estrella Urena at the American Legation. Two days 
later an agreement was reached. At the same time the first public meeting 
between Trujillo and Estrella Urena was arranged. These two also met 

TRUHLLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 52 

at the American Legation. Reportedly the purpose of their conference was 
to discuss "the military disposition necessary to preserve order in the city, 
and to prevent a clash." The latter was prevented by authorizing the Chief 
of the Army to disarm the civilians in the revolutionary forces (the mili- 
tary were already back in uniform) . Upon collecting the arms loaned to 
EstreUa Urena (and a few more as well), Trujillo assured Ms position as 
sole arbiter of the situation. Thereafter, his will was to be final. 

In order to avoid international problems of recognition of the new 
Government, Trujillo insisted on a "legal" transfer of power. It was stip- 
ulated that the President and the Vice President should resign, but prior 
to this action a new Secretary of the Interior acceptable to the revolution 
had to be named to assume power in accordance with the Constitution. 

President Vasquez, however, almost upset the apple cart. While dis- 
cussions were still under way, Vasquez notified the American Minister he 
was submitting his resignation to Congress and had signed a decree ap- 
pointing his Minister in Washington, the young and influential diplomat 
Dr. Angel Morales, to the post of Secretary of the Interior. This ma- 
neuver to save the regime backfired when the revolutionary leaders re- 
fused to grant permission for Congress to meet. 

Now Trujillo's hand began to show. Obviously he was cherishing the 
idea of becoming Acting President. At the end of one of the meetings at 
the Legation, EstreUa asked Curtis what was the American Government's 
attitude toward Trujillo. He was informed that the Legation would under 
no circumstances recommend the recognition of a Government headed by 

The conversations finally produced an agreement. EstreUa Urena him- 
self was appointed Secretary of the Interior on February 28. On March 2 
Congress accepted the President's and Vice President's resignations. 

The following day Estrella Urena was inaugurated as President of the 
Dominican Republic. Legality (a form Trujillo loves so long as he can use 
it) had smoothed the way for the rise to power of an illegal armed move- 
ment of rebellion. 

As conclusively worked out, the agreement contained nine provisions. 
There is no point in going into aU of them; the gist of two wiU suffice. One 
stated that "all arms shall be surrendered to the new Government." This 
was a provision that suited TrujiUo. He had been taught by the American 
Marines that disarmament of the opposition is the basis of military rule 
and he is a man who takes this kind of lesson to heart. In a speech years 
later he flatly ascribed the success of the American Military Government's 
pacification efforts in the Dominican RepubUc to "its drastic methods of 
disarmament." The second important clause established that "there shaU 
be no restrictions as to candidates, except that neither Alfonseca nor Tru- 
jiUo shall run." 


Analysing the revolution and its causes, Curtis found that one of the 
reasons for its success was that "the country has always opposed the re- 
election of its chief magistrates" and "saw itself gagged and bound to the 
acceptance of some years more of the Vasquez regime, to be followed 
by Alfonseca, on account of a grossly unfair electoral law." 

He pointed out that the country's finances were in deplorable state, 
due to maladministration, and that peculation on the part of Government 
officials was common. However, he concluded that the revolution had been 
unjustified. In support, he cited the success attending the Legation's efforts 
to obtain adequate guarantees of a fair election, "through which the great 
majority of the abuses cited could have been better rectified. Unfortunately, 
this success came too late, and only after Estrella Urena and Trujillo were 
already in full accord to undertake a revolution." 

The triumph (and tragedy it could be added) of what Estrella Urena 
had called, rather pompously, a civico (civilian) movement, lolled for a 
long time to come the marked progress heretofore made by the Dominican 
people on the road toward democratic procedures. 

The Vasquez regime, to be sure, had not been a model one. But what- 
ever its shortcomings, it had been a democratic one. The press had been 
free, even if some repressive measures had been undertaken against it, 
such as the closing of La Inormacion of Santiago by the military au- 
thorities. The citizens had been able to speak frankly and to criticize 
loudly without fear the most important figures of Government, including 
the President. There was corruption, but at least the people could kick 
freely against the crooked practices and could expect correction of them. 

As the people watched Trujillo gathering back his "lend-lease" hard- 
ware and redistributing it among his storm troopers in preparation for the 
forthcoming electoral campaign, the "civilian" movement came to be 
known as the cinico (cynical) movement. 


Dominican Republic in strict accordance with the Constitution and laws 
on March 3, 1930. 

"Trujillo was blocked in his plan to become Acting President," reported 
the American Minister Charles B. Curtis, who, nevertheless, injected a 
note of caution. "He may, however, attempt to run for President in the 
elections, in spite of the terms of the agreement." 

Curtis knew his man. The recent rebuff to his presidential aspirations, 
along with the obvious dislike shown for him by the influential American 
Minister, would have been deterrents to a weaker man, but not to strong- 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 54 

willed Trajillo. He had been slighted many times and his skin had grown 
thick. Moreover, his political instinct (reportedly helped by the advice of 
friends in the American Marine Corps) was telling him that United States 
opposition would melt in the face of a resolute stand on his part. He knew 
the Americans would not dare to intervene openly lest the wrath of Latin 
American public opinion fall upon them. He had made up his mind and 
the antipathy of Curtis was not going to force him to leave the arena. 

Under the circumstances the most important thing for Trujillo was to 
get hold of instruments of political power other than military force. A 
careful assessment of the political situation showed him a complete lack 
of unity and leadership among the triumphant revolutionary groups. He 
adroitly started troubling the disturbed waters of Dominican politics in 
order to fish better in them. 

While TrujUlo's rivals were beset by vacillations, the General's actions 
betrayed no doubts. In contrast to irresolute President Estreila Urena, 
who would not dare to take a step without consulting him, Trujillo's atti- 
tude was from the outset one of wholehearted, single-minded defiance of 
all opposition to his will. He held the military power and used it to stamp 
out possible competitors. He would stop short at nothing, even if in the 
process he had to shoot down a lot of innocent people. 

With ruthlessness unprecedented in local politics, Trujillo set himself to 
establish his personal rule in all levels of national life. By force or bribery 
he gained a foothold within each of the several political parties making up 
the loose coalition that had overthrown Vasquez and by the middle of 
March he had secured the Presidential nomination of the so-called Con- 
federation. He made it clear that in the future he intended to make Do- 
minican politics a one-man show. 

Estreila Urena's aspirations to the Presidency had been shattered, but 
overtaken and overwhelmed by the new events, he did not dare to protest. 
He knew who was boss and without a word accepted the Vice Presidency, 
thrown his way by Trujillo not as a reward but as a means of prostrat- 
ing him at his feet. Thus, the General did not let a day pass without re- 
minding Estreila that he was only a subordinate. For instance, on the 
night of March 17, 1930, while the Presidents of the Senate and the 
Chamber of Deputies were at a conference with President Estreila Urena 
at the Presidential Mansion, soldiers sent by Trujillo confiscated the revolv- 
ers of their chauffeurs. To no avail they showed permits signed by the 
President himself. 

This petty incident seems to have been a little too much even for puppet 
President Estreila Urena. The next morning during a "very frank and 
long interview" with the American Minister the President asserted that 
General Trujillo was dominating him and preventing the preparation of 
fair elections. "The President asked me," wrote Curtis to the U.S. State 


Department, "to make it public that the Government of the United States 
would not recognize Trujillo as President in view of the agreement reached 
through the mediation of the Legation which ended the revolution." 
Excusing his failure to take a definite stand, Estrella explained that any 
opposition on his part to Trajiilo's candidacy might be ascribed by the 
latter to self-interest. 

The State Department did not authorize Curtis to issue the statement 
suggested by Estrella Urena. The Department, however, concurred in 
Curtis's views that it was most unfortunate that the head of the Army 
should use that position for his political advancement and as a means of 
obtaining the Presidency. 

Furthermore, the Minister was instructed to talk "personally, confiden- 
tially and in the most friendly manner with Trujillo" to urge upon him, 
but only as Curtis's personal advice, "the damage which he will do to the 
political development of the Dominican Republic by being a candidate 
rather than by using his power to guarantee free and fair elections." 

It was the feeling of the State Department that a friendly appeal to 
Trujillo, "on the basis of the good of the Dominican Republic," would 
succeed in preventing his candidacy. Any duress, through a public state- 
ment, was considered self-defeating. 

Curtis was advised that, without overlooking the great difficulty of 
bringing such a thing about, the Department hoped he would be able to 
persuade Trujillo. But, should he not succeed and Trujillo be elected, the 
Department thought it most important that "you (Curtis) should not im- 
pair in any way your relations with him (Trujillo). Therefore the Depart- 
ment cannot emphasize too strongly the necessity of making your appeal 
in a most friendly spirit," 

Lastly, the State Department revealed confidentially to Curtis that the 
United States expected to recognize Trujillo and "maintain the most 
friendly relations with him and his Government." It was suggested that 
in his talks with Trujillo, Curtis should be assisted by a man the Depart- 
ment understood exercised great personal influence over the Dominican 
General: Colonel Richard M. Cutts, of the Marine Corps, then stationed 
in Haiti. "Colonel Cutts," said the U.S. State Department, "was Trujillo's 
commanding officer and trained him in his present duties, and the Depart- 
ment understands that Trujillo frequently consults him on important mat- 
ters relating to Trujillo's personal conduct and attitude." However, Cutts's 
visit to Santo Domingo left things unchanged. 

Ignorant of American willingness to appease Trujillo, the Dominican 
democratic forces were rallying behind a unification drive. The two most 
powerful political organizations then in existence joined forces in an ef- 
fort to check Trujillo's drive for power: the Partido National, of former 
President Vasquez, and the Partido Progresista, whose chief was a most 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 56 

respected elder statesman, Federico Velasquez y Hernandez, with a long 
past of selfless public service on Ms record. The Alianza, as the fusion of 
these two political organizations was known, nominated Velasquez as its 
Presidential candidate. As Velasquez' running mate, the young and 
promising nationalist leader Dr. Angel Morales was chosen; he had re- 
signed as Minister to Washington and was back in the country. The two 
opposition candidates tried desperately to rouse the liberal elements and 
there is no doubt that under normal conditions the AHanza's appeal 
would have gained an overwhelming majority on election day. 

Yet normalcy was an illusion. With the drawing of battle lines things 
took a sharp turn for the worst. Knowing that the Aiianza, supported by 
thousands of Dominicans from all walks of life, was gathering momentum, 
Trujillo decided to break the spine of the rising opposition. The spirit of 
protest was so great, however, that a very popular slogan, chalked on walls 
and curbstones throughout the country, was No puede ser . . . (It cannot 
be), referring to Trujillo's bid for power. Sometimes to these words 
would be added: por ladron de caballos (for horse thief). 

Faced with mounting popular opposition, Trujillo retaliated with the 
convincing argument of bullets, rope and knives. While the President and 
the civil authorities assured the American Legation of their real or feigned 
willingness to take all possible steps to maintain order, Trujillo, with the 
help of a gang of thugs known as La 42 after the Forty-second Company 
of American marines which left such bitter memories in Santo Domingo 
unleashed a wave of terror. 

A chilly wind of terror started blowing. The storm troopers of La 42, 
led by an Army captain (now a colonel) named Miguel Angel Paulino, 
dealt out beatings, broke up meetings of the opposition, kidnapped and 
murdered alleged enemies of the regime. Several hundred people were 
killed because they persisted in expressing their opinions. 4 An American 
observer, Charles A. Thomson, wrote the following in a report for the 
Foreign Policy Association: "The period succeeding General Trujillo's 
entry into the Presidential campaign witnessed the death or mysterious 
disappearance of a great number of his opponents. These included former 
cabinet ministers, ex-Senators, leading politicians, journalists, ranchers, 
businessmen, students and labor leaders." 

A most dreaded feature of those fateful days, and one about which old 
Dominicans still talk with trembling voices, was La 42'$ terroristic Carro 
de la Muerte (death car) the huge red Packard, driven by an ex-convict, 

42 formed a special body which had its particular living standard, its special 
ethics, code of honor and even slang. Drawn from the dregs of Dominican under- 
world, La 42 organized itself right after the February coup. Its members were allowed 
to steal and murder without hindrance and received part of the spoils taken from the 
victims. Among La 42's most prominent graduates is Dominican diplomat Dr. Felix 
W. Bernardino, former Dominican Consul General in New York. 


used to take the regime's earlier enemies for a ride. Each night was one 
of fright for Trujillo's foes. But the long list of those assassinated com- 
prises more than people openly opposed to the regime. Many citizens were 
killed to satisfy personal vengeance, and many more were disposed of, 
especially plantation owners, because they objected to soldiers stealing 
cattle or resisted confiscation of their estates. 

The electoral campaign officially opened on April 1. By the middle of 
the month, however, it had become apparent that it was no longer possible 
to expect any kind of pre-eiectoral guarantees. With terrorism in full sway, 
campaigning was a most daring enterprise. One day a group of leading 
members of the Alianza, including Vice Presidential nominee Angel 
Morales, were ambushed but miraculously escaped. 

In letters dated April 17 and 18 to the President of the Central Electoral 
Board, Velasquez accused Trajillo adherents in many cases army officers 
of firing on opposition rallies. The letters also stated that trujillista 
gangs had attacked the Alianza leaders and the officers of the opposition 
groups in various cities as well as its propaganda committees throughout 
the country. A considerable number of Alianza supporters had been 
killed and wounded; others had been imprisoned. 

On May 1 the Central Electoral Board (in charge of supervising the 
electoral campaign) published in the Listin Diario a notice of protest: 
"The Central Electoral Board requests that the Army remain in its bar- 
racks and that house-to-house search cease at once." 

The protest was ignored and the President of the Board, Mr. Enrique 
Estrada, resigned. Some days later the other members of the board like- 
wise resigned. According to Charles A. Thomson, "they had been named 
as the result of an inter-party agreement and in consequence had merited 
general confidence." Trujillo's apologists deny things were that way. Biog- 
rapher Abelardo R. Nanita accuses the opposition leader of causing all 
the trouble. According to Nanita, the opposition was working in an "un- 
derhanded and subtle manner" to obstruct the electoral process and in 
complicity with the Electoral Board was plotting to flout the Constitution. 
Nanita also accuses Estrella Urena of being in cahoots with the Alianza 
and says that upon Ms return from a "triumphant campaigning trip" 
through the Cibao region Trujillo was informed of the situation, "whereupon 
the necessary steps were taken to meet the danger. The members of the Cen- 
tral Electoral Board submitted resignations." What is not explained is why 
the plotters easily acceded to Trujillo's way of foiling the conspiracy. 

Anyway, by decree of May 6, Provisional President Jacinto B. Peynado 
(Estrella Urena as a candidate for the Vice Presidency had scrupulously 
taken a leave of absence beginning April 22) named another Central Elec- 
toral Board to be presided over by Roberto Despradel. The Alianza, 
charging that the members of the new Board were partial to the Trujillo 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 58 

candidacy, refused to recognize the appointment. Velasquez at once 
brought suit in the courts to test the legality of the Executive's action. 
Judge Heriberto Nunez, of El Seibo court of first instance, decided in favor 
of the plaintiffs. The Government appealed the decision. 

The case came before the Court of Appeals in the capital on May 15. 
Two days later, when the judges were ready to pronounce the sentence 
(supposedly upholding the original findings), the courtroom was invaded 
by a group of armed members of La 42. With the turbulent mob already 
within the courthouse, the judges had to run for their lives. The late Dr. 
Carlos Gaton Richiez, one of them, told me years later (at the Labor De- 
partment where we shared an office in its Legal section) that he had been 
forced to go in hiding for several days afterward. On his way to a friend's 
home, where he took refuge, Dr. Gaton went through the streets of the 
capital disguised as a woman. 

The decision never became law; notwithstanding all the pressure exerted 
upon them, the five judges (Francisco A. Hernandez, Esteban S. Mesa, 
Carlos Gaton Richiez, Gregorio Sone Nolasco and M. E. Caceres) filed a 
protest with the Supreme Court on May 22. 

Neither terror nor the glowing promises of the trujillista platform were 
enough to quiet the popular ferment. Organized labor would not be wooed 
by Trujillo's hollow promises. Most vocal in their opposition were the 
members of the Chauffeurs Union. Feelings ran high and at this point the 
chauffeurs decided to agitate in the streets. They staged a rally on plazas 
and street corners of the capital. The demonstration wound up in Inde- 
pendence Park where leaflets calling Trujillo a "cattle thief" were dis- 
tributed. At that moment a detachment of soldiers, reinforced by the 
ubiquitous La 42, appeared at the park and turned their guns upon the 
demonstrators, mowing them down. A score of men, several dead, were 
left on the ground. That same night the Union headquarters were invaded 
by La 42. An electoral convention was promptly held, at which Captain 
Miguel Angel Paulino was "elected" President of the Union, a capacity in 
which he thereafter served for almost ten years. 

In the interim the opposition hopes that Washington would not recognize 
a government headed by Trujillo had been disappointed. Unknown to 
them, they received a severe blow on April 23. On that day the new Do- 
minican Minister to the United States, Rafael Brache, called upon the Act- 
ing Secretary of State to discuss the Dominican political situation. Cotton 
let Brache know that the Department agreed with Curtis's opinion, which 
had been politely expressed to Trujillo, that it would be a pity for a man 
who was the head of the army to be candidate for President. Brache 
argued that Trujillo was a "very able man, a good organizer, very clever, 
intelligent and honest." 


The Dominican Envoy must have come from the conference favorably 
impressed. The next day Tmjillo decided to call the Americans' bluff and 
formally accepted the presidential nomination. In his acceptance a re- 
markable document the General promised freedom for all, improved 
health measures, improved finances, more jobs and better living condi- 
tions. He asserted that, above all things, he was against dictatorship. To 
cap all, he promised those who followed him they would never regret it. 

Trujillo had touched off a blaze of violence that was sweeping the coun- 
try, but it still took a little longer for the opposition leaders to concede 
defeat. However, after a meeting on May 14, Velasquez and Morales an- 
nounced their withdrawal from the race. Inasmuch, they asserted, as elec- 
toral campaigning in its most democratic aspects had been suppressed by 
a policy of terrorism that stopped at nothing, elections could only prove a 
farce. They asked their followers to abstain from voting. 

"Elections" were held two days later and Trujillo and Estrella Urena 
were declared elected unopposed. The people, according to Nanita, had 
chosen whom they should "gallant" General Trujillo, the man destined 
"by an inscrutable Providence to change completely the course of history." 

"I have the honor to confirm my report that there were no disorders 
during the day of the elections, but that all is by no means quiet here," 
wrote Curtis to the State Department. He further noted that "the Con- 
federation announces that 223,851 votes were, according to early reports, 
cast in favor of General Rafael Leonidas Trujillo for President of the 
Republic, and of Rafael Estrella Urena for Vice President. As the number 
given greatly exceeds the total number of voters in the country, further 
comment on the fairness of the elections is hardly necessary; however, 
there is every reason to believe that, as anticipated by the Legation, the 
intimidation of the followers of the Opposition had already been so great 
prior to the day of the elections that none was needed, and it would seem 
than none was practiced, on the day of the elections, in order to keep them 
away from the polls." 

The violence rending the country did not end with Trujillo's election. 
The General made it known that he had no intention of letting bygones be 
bygones. Now that he had been elected he considered the moment had 
arrived to deal with the major opposition leaders. Thus far La 42 had only 
disposed (with a few exceptions) of the small fry, though casualties could 
be counted by the thousands. Many victims were secretly buried or thrown 
into the sea, 

No sooner had the electoral returns been announced than Trujillo threw 
Presidential candidate Federico Velasquez in jail. Similar orders were 
issued against Morales, but alert followers managed to smuggle him out to 
Puerto Rico a step ahead of La 42. Considering that during his long 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 60 

exile Morales has been the subject of several murderous plots, it is only 
fair to assume that he wisely left the country. 5 After eight days in prison 
Velasquez was released, on May 26, and likewise went into exile in Puerto 
Rico, where he died four years later. 

The spree of violence followed a vicious circle. Trujillo turned loose his 
soldiers and thugs, who now roamed the streets of cities and towns as 
well as the countryside. First to faU victims to the iron fist of La 42 
were distinguished citizens high on the list of Trujillo's personal hatreds. 

On June 1, 1930, Vkgilio Martinez Reyna, a poet and sometime cabi- 
net minister under President Vdsquez, was shot dead, together with his 
pregnant wife. According to Listin Diario, the gunmen who assaulted his 
country home at San Jose de las Matas (led by General Jose Estrella as 
was established later) had slashed the poet's body and severed the nose 
from his face. Since Martinez was chronically ill and practically retired 
from politics, it seems that the only reason for this dastardly murder was 
that in the early days of the Vasquez regime he had sought to have Trujillo 
removed from the Army. 

Next on the proscribed list was Jose Brache, former Secretary of the 
Treasury. Brache was killed in Moca by a group who fired upon him from 
the moving Carro de la Muerte as he emerged from a movie. The former 
high official, it was reported, had once refused to lend Trujillo a consid- 
erable sum of money. 

Terror had its political motivation as well. One night as Moncito Matos, 
leader of the opposition in Barahona, strolled into his home, a gunman 
followed and shot him down. Eliseo Esteves, an opposition chieftain in 
Moca, was removed in like manner. So was Juan Paredes, opposition 
leader in San Francisco de Macoris, and hundreds of lesser known free- 
dom-loving citizens. 

Cornered and hunted down, some opposition leaders tried to put up a 
desperate armed resistance. But then, as now, arms were almost impossi- 
ble to get. Without arms and ammunition the overwhelming military might 
of the Government proved too much. One of the abortive uprisings in the 
city of La Vega provided the Government with a good excuse to imprison 
and kill a number of opponents. 

On June 10 a group of rebels led by General Alberto Larancuent, 
leader of the Partido Progresista, left the town of La Romana and headed 
for the woods. After a few skirmishes with the Army the group, including 
Larancuent, was induced to drop their arms, under promises of guarantees 
for their lives and personal security. 

As result of this short-lived uprising, Dominicans were given the op- 
portunity to appreciate one of the earliest demonstrations of Trujillo's ca- 

5 Morales is at present one of the most respected exile leaders, because of his hon- 
esty, forthrightness and courage. 


parity for deceit and brutality. He lured Larancuent to his slaughter by 
inviting the defeated enemy to a peace meeting in the capital, in which 
both men embraced each other. On the same night trustful Larancuent 
was taking a breath of fresh air at Colon Square in front of his hotel, 
when suddenly the lights went out. Several shots were then heard. When 
the lights snapped on again, the bullet-ridden body of Larancuent was 
lying on the ground. Again and again Trujillo used in those early days the 
ruse of inviting opponents to negotiate and then arresting or killing them. 

As the time for the presidential inauguration approached, terror in- 
creased. This compound of terror, cowardice and treachery finally achieved 
its avowed end it broke the proud and democratic spirit of the Domini- 
can people. 

The most candid among the Dominican press agents explain the reports 
of early violence as the inevitable accompaniment of a momentary break- 
down of public order. The armed bands are explained as organized by 
excitable individuals, many of whom sincerely believed they were doing 
good for their country. The explanation has a Fascist ring the reign of 
terror was in essence a patriotic crusade. 

Whether the trujillista crimes of 1930 and 1931 were justified by con- 
ditions or whether they would have never occurred had not Trujillo himself 
granted immunity to their perpetrators, is rather academic. However, it 
must be pointed out that long after an era of peace, order, law, progress, 
and justice, to employ trujillista language, has succeeded, people still pay 
dearly for democratic convictions. 



Rafael L. Trujillo assumed office, a hurricane struck the capital city and 
played great havoc. When the long hours of nightmare and destruction 
were over, dazed capitalenos, as the inhabitants of the city are named, 
started combing the rubble for survivors. Disaster's toll was heavy for a 
city having a population of less than 80,000 2,500 dead, more than 
8,000 injured and an untold number unaccounted for. 

The aggregate of sorrow, consternation and tragedy was heavy too. For 
days the nightmare could not be erased from the minds of the survivors. 
As the dead were counted many days passed before an accurate tally 
could be made care for the living became the most pressing problem. 
Material losses were estimated at several millions, but fortunately the old 
colonial quarter of the city had not suffered much. There, hundreds of 
families from the devastated slums found shelter in churches, schools and 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 62 

public buildings still standing. But the threat of famine and epidemics 
loomed over the ruins. 

To give the devil his due, credit must be given to Trajillo for prompt, 
sweeping measures intended to alleviate the plight of the inhabitants. In 
doing so he faced problems which would have discouraged a less energetic 
man. And he coped with them with energy, determination and sagacity. 

But Trujillo is no magician and he could not do the immense task with- 
out outside help and the collaboration of the Dominican people. Without 
minimizing the extent of the crisis, it must be said that the picture of Tru- 
jillo as the single-handed rebuilder of the city is a gross exaggeration put 
forth by his propaganda machine. The people, as well as their President, 
rose to meet the crisis. 

The President declared the city a major disaster area and set himself 
to work out plans for rebuilding. However, aside from the money spent in 
repairing damaged public buildings and clearing the streets as well as car- 
ing for the wounded in the State hospitals, the relief program hardly cost a 
penny to the Dominican Government. Most of the property owners per- 
formed, without any financial assistance from the Administration or the 
relief agencies, the reconstruction of their private homes and places of 
business. Even the portion shared by the Government in the reconstruc- 
tion work was launched with the help of money, medical equipment, build- 
ing material, foodstuffs and other supplies rushed from neighboring coun- 
tries. Airplanes flew supplies in from the United States, Puerto Rico, Cuba 
and Haiti and all manner of naval craft were engaged in the same task. 
Hospitals were improvised with Cuban and American personnel brought 
into the country by the respective branches of the Red Cross. Crews of 
British, Dutch and American ships were employed in the thankless 
task of removing debris. An inspiring example of international cooperation! 

In many respects the hurricane proved a blessing for Trujillo. To meet 
the crisis, the National Congress passed a law suspending constitutional 
guarantees and investing the President with authority to take any steps, 
economic or otherwise, to raise funds on public credit, to distribute relief 
supplies and to do whatever was demanded by the circumstances. 

The General did not let his newly legalized dictatorial power rust. He 
personally assumed the direction of the Red Cross and relief operations, 
whereas the Government "borrowed" idle funds lying in bank accounts or 
vaults. Tight controls were imposed over the stocks of necessities, medi- 
cines and building materials, but instead of diverting them directly to the 
needy, they were turned over to relatives of Trujillo and Army speculators. 
An idea of the way in which necessities were handled by speculators and 
profiteers can be gained from the fact that several known fortunes were 
made in a matter of weeks. As head of the Red Cross the President was 
himself the sole administrator of the large sums of relief money sent from 


abroad. To date no one knows how the money was spent, since Trujillo 
never deigned to make public an accounting that was due to the foreign 

Since Congress had legalized dictatorship, it was easy for Trujillo 
to take advantage of the situation to wipe out the already decimated ranks 
of the opposition. Thus, many of his opponents, done away with by strong- 
armed squads, were reported victims of the hurricane. The day after the 
hurricane Trujillo ordered Captain Paulino, the head of La 42, to secure 
large quantities of gasoline and that evening the dead bodies of the vic- 
tims of the hurricane (as well as a few killed by La 42) were drenched 
with the fluid and burned. This method of corpse disposal was hailed 
as an ingenious device of the President to save time and prevent epidemics. 
Trajillo, as a matter of fact, takes great pride in his original health meas- 
ure. "Without this drastic step/' he asserted, "we should have suffered an 
epidemic that would have destroyed the capital itself." 

Terror seemed to be insufficient, however, at least at the outset, to con- 
trol people who, as in the wake of big calamities, were getting restless. 
Even the Army rank-and-file could not be trusted. To stave off trouble, 
and assure himself of a firm seat in the saddle, Trujillo conceived another 
original idea: he tried to bring foreign soldiers into the country. 

Therefore, Trujillo made a most unusual appeal to the American and 
Haitian Governments. He personally requested of his friend Colonel Cutts 
at least fifty American Marines and as many more as available. He wanted 
them to be temporarily assigned to Santo Domingo on any excuse. Cutts 
was in no position to do such a favor for his friend, but he transmitted the 
request to Marine headquarters. In the interim Trujillo asked the Navy 
Department liaison officer in Santo Domingo, Major W. B. Sullivan, to 
put a similar request to the United States Minister Charles B. Curtis. 

Upon receiving Trujillo's petition for foreign military help, Curtis wrote 
to the State Department backing it. "The Dominican Army and police are 
almost completely demoralized," he asserted, "and the moral effect of hav- 
ing 50 Marines here would be enormously beneficial." 

The acting Secretary of State Cotton ruled out any idea of sending 
Marines to the Dominican Republic. Such a step, he noted in his answer to 
Curtis, might create misunderstanding in other countries. 

Still determined to secure foreign soldiers, Trujillo turned toward Haiti 
and made a similar request of President Roy. This time he specifically 
asked, according to a message from the American Legation in Port-au- 
Prince to the State Department, for the sending of a detachment of 50 or 
100 Haitian guards to Santo Domingo City. President Roy dismissed the 
request since he thought that the dispatch of guards would probably be 
ineffective and "might lead to unfortunate friction." 

Despite his failure on that occasion, it is well-known fact that Trujillo 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 64 

still subscribes to the theory that in times of crisis the presence of foreign 
troops contributes to bolster the morale of the incumbent regime and, in 
case of need, may be used more effectively than the native soldiers. When 
his long-time ally and personal friend President Anastasio Somoza, of 
Nicaragua, was felled by the bullets of a young martyr, in 1956, the Bene- 
factor promptly sent off to Managua part of his Presidential Guard. The 
gesture was repeated right after the murder of the President of Guatemala, 
Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas, in 1957. 

Trujillo, however, had to get along without outside help in 1930. What- 
ever his own doubts, he was fortunate or capable enough to overcome by 
his own means the immediate emergency. It is only in the face of his sub- 
sequent record as a loud-mouthed "non-interventionist" that the strange 
requests must be recorded. They contribute another paradox. 

Moreover, if Trujillo considered it normal to request foreign aid, mili- 
tary or otherwise, still he strongly objected to similar actions on the part of 
his subjects. In February 1931 his Congress passed a law making it a 
punishable offense for any citizen to resort to a foreign government or 
legation, to request help or to complain against the Dominican Government. 

Trujillo's early difficulties were not limited to the political field. Like 
almost any other contemporary ruler, he was faced by an acute financial 
crisis. Although in later years the Benefactor has made it a chief feature of 
his propaganda for external consumption that all Dominican progress has 
been achieved without the help of outside loans or financial entanglements, 
it is a matter of record that right after the hurricane the Dominican Gov- 
ernment sounded out in vain the State Department on the possibilities of 
getting financial assistance. Nonetheless the President of the United States, 
Herbert Hoover, designated Mr. Elliot Wadsworth as his personal repre- 
sentative to the Dominican Republic and directed him to decide on the 
practicability of authorizing a new bond issue chargeable to the debt-ridden 
Dominican Government. Wadsworth advised against such a bond issue. 

To complicate matters, demands for payment of the external debt now 
became pressing and as a result $3,000,000 per annum had to be diverted 
from the national budget for the servicing of foreign bonds. Trujillo now 
stood hi front of an empty treasury, a floating debt of $1,750,000 and a 
foreign debt of $20,000,000. Revenues that in 1929 had reached the high- 
est peak in the history of the country, totaling $15,385,000, had dropped 
in 1930 to $9,879,843.75 and in 1931 to $7,350,000. 

To meet the challenge, Trujillo attempted various not always orthodox 
and often erratic economy measures. He reduced personnel in govern- 
ment offices by 15 to 20 per cent, and salaries, if not in arrears, were cut 
by 15 per cent. He closed many schools in all levels of learning, leaving 
the country with only two high schools, and an enrollment smaller than 
in 1920. The only budgetary appropriations he did not slash were those of 


the Army, which was allotted in 1931 the sum of $1,141,000, or 11.5 per 
cent of the total budget. 

Despite Trujillo's frantic efforts the situation kept its downward trend 
until the amount of funds going into the treasury was not enough to cover 
a minimum of the Administration's ordinary expenses and meet as well the 
heavy payments of the external debt. A commission was sent to the United 
States in an unsuccessful effort to secure a loan, "At this point we needed 
help and assistance. I sought them eagerly but did not find them any- 
where," recalled the Benefactor years after. 

The American creditors, however, could no longer close their eyes to 
the frightful economic conditions in the Dominican Republic. To prevent 
complete national bankruptcy, an Emergency Law was passed in October 
1931 diverting to governmental expenses $1,500,000 from customs rev- 
enues which were pledged to service of the foreign loans; the United States 
Government contented itself with the statement that it was following de- 
velopments "with attention and care." In accordance with the new law 
interest payments were to be maintained, but payments on the sinking- 
fund were practically suspended. 

The Emergency Law was kept in full force until 1934, when a new per- 
manent agreement was made with the Foreign Bondholders Protective 
Council of the United States, permitting very substantial reductions in 
debt payments in exchange for more powers for the American General 
Receiver of Customs. 

During the negotiations of this new agreement one of Trujillo's clearcut 
methods appeared for the first time. The Dominican Government did not 
employ as negotiators its own diplomats, but American lawyers and lobby- 
ists. Joseph E. Davies, well-known lawyer and Democratic Party politician, 
acted as Dominican representative in dealings with a Democratic Adminis- 
tration and Democratic Secretary of State Cordell Hull. 

Davies was assisted by Oliver P. Newman, a journalist with little pre- 
vious experience in financial matters or Latin American affairs, who had 
formerly been associated with the Democratic National Committee as di- 
rector of publicity, when Mr. Cordell Hull was chairman of that body. 
Thereafter, Newman, who died in Miami, Florida, in 1956, was associated 
with Trujillo for almost twenty years in diverse capacities both in the 
Dominican Republic and the United States. 

Convinced at last that he would not be able to solve the economic 
problems of his regime with the help of foreign loans, Trujillo chose crush- 
ing taxation as the best alternative to increase the flow of revenue. A group 
of so-called emergency taxes were imposed, never to be repealed. Though 
they markedly increased the cost of living, taxes helped the regime to cover 
expenditures for its costly machinery. Through an extreme protection of 
certain articles, taxes encouraged the growth of a series of Trujillo-owned 

TRU3ILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 66 

monopolies. Last but not least, they were a fool-proof instrument of terror, 
adroitly exploited to keep in line the wealthy classes. Fear of additional 
taxation, coupled with visits by Treasury agents, has been the favorite 
method of keeping in check businessmen and wealthy farmers. 

Resentment over taxation is tantamount to political opposition. To 
raise prices following a new levy or to close down a business for the same 
reason is a severely punishable crime. Late in 1934 and early in 1935, 
following imposition of heavy taxes upon several necessities, some mer- 
chants raised prices. The Government retaliated by throwing a few domes- 
tic merchants in jail and threatening to deport foreign businessmen if such 
practices continued. To maintain a cloud of fear over the employers, the 
Government printed a notice in Listin Diario warning businessmen they 
would be held responsible for any expressions of disloyalty voiced by em- 
ployees or relatives. When a match factory in Puerto Plata shut down, Tru- 
jillo announced to the press that the government would "not permit the 
stoppage of any industry" and that if the owners could not keep them 
running, the Administration would take charge and give them an "effi- 
cient, honest and economical administration." 

Money was still scarce. Although Trujillo has always taken special pride 
in his public works program, during the first four years of his regime the 
only activity the government could show along this line was the erection 
of several permanent steel and concrete bridges, one of which was bap- 
tized "Ramfis Bridge" in honor of Trujillo's four-year-old son. The mate- 
rials for this bridge had been contracted and paid for by the Vasquez ad- 
ministration; it had dealt with the United Steel Products Company of New 
York since 1928. 

Coincidental with stopgap economic measures came Trujillo's search 
for stable formulas to perpetuate his power. Beyond a determination to 
capture supreme authority by hook or crook, he had brought no plan to 
the Presidency. Now he needed a little more than that, and the General 
proved himself equal to the task. His formula to remain in power was 
simple enough diabolically simple: from then on no opposition was to 
be permitted. 

Trujillo's views were enforced by the vigorous arguments of the rope 
and the bullet. Murder again raised its ugly head and La 42 scoured the 
country beating actual or potential opponents. Discontent with the regime, 
indifference toward the regime, opposition toward the regime, all found a 
common denominator in persecution by Trujillo. 

If the pre-inauguration atrocities had been a horrible example of rule 
by terror, what happened after "the Chief" was already installed defies 
efforts at objective description. Just to list those who have died on Tru- 
jillo's orders is an impossible task. According to Albert C. Hicks, "during 
the immediate post-election period, from the summer of 1930 to October 


1931, at least one thousand Dominicans who were on the Trujillo black list 
were killed. Thousands of others were imprisoned and tortured." 

Opponents dragged from their homes were dumped into vermin-infested 
cells at the malaria-ridden Nigua prison near the capital. By illegal search, 
kidnapping or murder, La 42 terrorized the population. An entire genera- 
tion of Dominican democratic leaders was wiped out, all opposition rooted 
out and every spark of political energy smothered. 

To be plunged into the blood bath a man did not have to be himself 
active in politics. It was enough to be a close relative of someone who was. 
Dr. Gerardo Ellis Cambiaso, an active opponent of the regime, sought 
refuge abroad to avoid persecution, but left behind in the Dominican 
Republic his son Gerardo Ellis Guerra, a high school student with no po- 
litical affiliation. At dusk, on October 7, 1931, young Ellis was walking 
with his fiancee along the main street of Santiago when shooting broke 
out. When it was over the student lay dead at the feet of his fiancee who 
miraculously escaped unhurt. 

Whole families (the Perozos, the Bencosmes, the Patinos, the VaJlejos) 
lost nearly all their male members during these early purges or in the years 
that immediately followed. The Perozo family may be the one that has 
given most martyrs to the anti-Trajillo cause. In the early Thirties all men 
carrying the name of Perozo and their in-laws were dispatched by the 
Trujillo secret police. Jose Luis Fermfn Perozo, however, was only a boy 
of two when the regime took power, and he was spared. At 17, however, 
Jose Luis was already "dangerous." On the afternoon of June 13, 1945, 
while the boy was strolling along one of his home-town streets he was 
approached by a lottery ticket peddler who, without warning, stabbed him 
to death. The police promptly arrested the killer and released a com- 
muniqu6 announcing that he would be indicted for the crime. The following 
morning, however, the police issued a new statement that the murderer 
had hanged himself in his cell the night before. 

It is a strong tribute to the Dominicans' character that these outrages 
did not break their spirits outright. There still was some opposition; 
though weak in numbers, it was high in character. Various were the revo- 
lutionary movements that broke out. Even trujillista propaganda cannot 
deny the existence of men of determination and courage, willing to sacri- 
fice their lives in the fight for democratic rule. Lawrence de Besault calls 
them "obdurate malcontents who desired to ruin the new administration, 
who plotted in the shadows and headed by a few disturbers attempted to 
resurrect the past." Trujillo, according to his biographer, answered their 
active hostility with conciliatory gestures, and only when persuasion and 
generosity failed did he employ the Army to crush incipient revolts. 

One such case was that of Senator Desiderio Arias, a veteran politician 
and leader of the revolution that put Trujillo in power. As a worthy man, 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 68 

Arias, after an abortive uprising, took refuge with a handful of followers 
in the northern mountains of Mao in the summer of 1931. Upon hearing 
of Ms former collaborator's uprising, Trujillo accused Arias, along with 
his other comrades, of a common crime the murder of an obscure farmer 
named Vetilio Reyes. Then he ordered General lose Estrella at the head 
of an impressive military force to persecute the Senator. Arias and all 
his comrades were killed in a bloody skirmish. 

Around the killing of Arias there are several unsavory stories which do 
not rate much credit, but there is a feature of the incident that reveals an 
interesting aspect of Trujillo's personality. The night of Arias' killing "the 
Chief" showed up at his widow's home and insisted upon staying with 
the tormented lady while she mourned over the body. Then Trujillo made 
the Senate pass a resolution declaring three days of mourning. 

Following Latin American tradition, Dominican students stood in the 
forefront of the fight against Trujillo during several years. The National 
Association of University Students (ANEU) held a series of anti-Trujillo 
demonstrations, all dispersed by Trujillo's mounted police and La 42. 
Finally the association was disbanded and several leaders thrown in jail. 

In Santiago a group of high school students planted a few bombs 
throughout the town and planned to assassinate Trujillo during one of his 
visits. The plot miscarried at the last moment when the would-be murderer 
lost his nerve. Finally discovered, some forty young men were arrested 
and held in prison for more than a year. 

Having routed all opposition, Trujillo turned on his own collaborators. 
They, too, surrendered without giving battle. Torn by the conflicting in- 
terests of its leaders, the coalition that put Trujillo in power soon disinte- 
grated. Methodically, the General undermined the influence of his prin- 
cipal associates, playing up with skillful shrewdness the rivalries between 
them, a method he strongly favors in dealing with his own household. 

Vice President Estrella Urena was the first among the collaborators to 
be shoved aside. The man had too much prestige to be left alone, so Tru- 
jillo did not spare pains to humiliate and harass him. On August 16, 1931, 
in a statement full of praise for Trujillo, Estrella announced he was leav- 
ing for Europe to fulfill an official mission. From Puerto Rico, however, 
he cabled his resignation and boarded a ship for New York, starting a 
period of exile that ended nine years later with an unexplainable recon- 
ciliation with Trujillo. 

Estrella's downfall was followed by a far more important one: that of 
Rafael Vidal, one of the "brain trust" of the February revolution. With 
much fanfare, Vidal was thrown into jail on trumped-up charges. Later 
he was pardoned and seemingly restored to the favor of the President. 

By 1934 all opposition had been silenced or driven underground, but 
Trujillo was not satisfied. He craved the all-out support of all Dominicans. 


People soon learned that they had to be vocally on "the Chiefs" side, 
since to be "indifferent" was as bad as to be "subversive." This end was 
achieved very successfully through fear, through the hope of personal ad- 
vancement or through vulgar bribery. The lure of public office, after a 
brief visit to jail, was usually sufficient to gain converts. The list of the 
men who went through this cure during the first years of the regime and 
subsequently is a long one. Those who were really fortunate removed 
themselves from the local scene and went into exile (a method no longer 
possible since it is practically impossible to get a passport and the Tru- 
jillo regime does not recognize the right of asylum). Those who exiled 
themselves were promptly declared "traitors" to the Fatherland, sentenced 
to jail terms, and their properties within the Republic confiscated. 

For nearly four years Trajillo pounded the politically hopeless oppo- 
sition. Now in 1934 Ms reelection was considered a well deserved reward 
for selfless devotion to furthering the welfare of the Dominican people. 
Perhaps unknowingly "the Chief ' had scrupulously followed Machia- 
velli's "advice to the tyrants of four hundred years ago to get their mur- 
ders over with at the beginning of their reign. Now he was able, at least 
outwardly, to show restraint and generosity, provided the rest of the 
Dominicans played the game according to his own rules. 

In well-organized "civic reviews" organized throughout the country by 
the only party any longer in existence the Partido Dominicano masses 
of peasants were brought together to voice their support of their self- 
styled Benefactor, in preparation for the 1934 poEs. This was hailed as 
a sign of democracy on the march; trujillista democracy, to be sure. 


Rafael L. Trujillo especially after the much written-about Galindez dis- 
appearance he pictures "the Caribbean Little Caesar" as a cruel, sinis- 
ter image of evil. As a matter of fact, "the Big One," if seen out of uni- 
form, could be mistaken for a prosperous, well-dressed, civic-minded 
American business executive. 

A strongly-built, erect, agile, untiring and well-proportioned graying 
man, Trujillo seems exceptionally healthy at 66. His good carriage and 
military bearing, as well as Ms quick, well-coordinated reflexes help him 
to keep an athletic, outdoor look. Forced by incipient stoutness to corset 
himself, he still manages, with the help of built-in elevator heels, to give 
the impression of being taller than his five feet eight inches. When he 
marches into a reception room, his face set straight ahead and only his 
quick brown eyes glancing about, he cuts an imposing figure. 

Described a few years back by an American writer as a handsome man 
with a copper skin and twinkling eyes who "drank a mighty good glass of 
wine," the Generalissimo's personal tastes used to impress visitors as 
sybaritic. Although he clings to most of his former tastes, over the last 
eight years he has gradually modified his living habits to conform to the 
requirements of advancing years. 

Without losing completely his hearty appetite for the good things of 
life, Trujillo has become frugal. He keeps a watchful eye on his diet, 
exercises regularly, never smokes (he has never tried) and plans to get 
seven hours' rest on most nights. A shorter period of rest is likely to 
make him snappish in the morning. 


Although there is no recent indication that "the Big One" is in any- 
thing but the best of health, notwithstanding a formal announcement made 
in September 1957 that he had suffered a "mild" indisposition, a string of 
foreign doctors have been visiting his household during the last three years. 
In March 1956 the New York Times reported that President Eisenhower's 
heart specialist, Dr. Paul Dudley White, had made an urgent visit to 
Ciudad Trujillo. According to a Dominican physician who declined to 
have his name used, the purpose of Dr. White's visit was to examine the 
Generalissimo. Later, several European and American physicians have 
gone to the country for the same purpose. 

This should not be taken as a definite sign that Trujillo's health is de- 
teriorating. The fact is that despite his seemingly good health "the Chief" 
is overcome by an almost pathological fear of illness. He is always testing 
new types of medicines, mysterious injections and stimulating pills. Special 
emphasis is put on products whose avowed purpose is either to rejuvenate 
or strengthen virility. 

Trujillo's cronies are always on the watch for strange medications and 
a great deal of time is devoted, during after-dinner conversation at the 
Palace to the alleged properties of the latest competitor of "Spanish fly." 
From all corners of the globe packages containing the newest filters as 
well as scientific and pseudo-scientific discoveries arrive at the Palace. 
There was a time when guests at his dinner table were given a glass of 
molasses as a stimulant to their appetite as well as a digestive agent. 
"The Chief's" approval of the efficacy of a novel "fountain of youth" is 
likely to start a rush for the concoction among the members of the inner 
circle. This, in turn, sets off a chain reaction in the outer circles; the drug- 
stores are deluged with requests for unheard-of remedies. 

Whatever the present state of his health, Trujillo is known to have 
been near death at least twice during his tenure of power. In 1935 a 
chronic prostate affliction almost carried him off. A French specialist, 
Dr. George Marion, was rushed into the country to operate on him and 
thus saved his life. Ever since Dr. Marion has made periodic visits to the 
island to check on his patient's health. Reportedly he did it for the last 
time in September 1957. 

Then, in 1940, an anthrax in the neck, contracted at his farm, put Tru- 
jillo's life in peril. This time it was an old Dominican country doctor, Dr. 
Dario Contreras, who saved his life with a daring operation, performed 
against the best advice of cautious colleagues. 

The aftermath of this surgical feat throws some light upon the Gen- 
eralissimo's personality. Upon recovery "the Chief" threw in jail his per- 
sonal physician and Minister of Public Health, Dr. Francisco Benzo. The 
former favorite lost his job and his personal fortune was confiscated, when 
he was accused of having advised Dr. Contreras not to operate because the 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 72 

"corpse's smell" had already started upon their patient. Benzo's place was 
taken over by Dr. Contreras, but only for a short while. Years later the 
old, forsaken Contreras committed the unpardonable indiscretion of writ- 
ing an article in La Nation, reminding the Benefactor, with the help of 
Aesopian language, of his famous life-saving operation. Instead of the ex- 
pected expression of gratitude, Contreras received a sharp rebuke. The 
Generalissimo does not owe anything to anyone, he was told. He, Con- 
treras, was showing how ungrateful he was by failing to appreciate the 
unique privilege bestowed upon him when he was allowed to treat such 
an illustrious patient. 

Always conscious of his good looks as much as of his health, Trujillo 
affects extreme elegance in his dress and personal appurtenances. Even 
as a young telegraph operator in his home town he tried to dress above 
Ms station. Today he meticulously resorts to the most elaborate uniforms 
and immaculate clothes. 

Such is the Generalissimo's passion for clothes that he keeps complete 
wardrobes which according to biographer Nanita "might well be envied 
by a prince" in each of his twelve main residences. "The best tailors 
in New York, London and Paris fashion his clothes," asserts Nanita. Im- 
peccably attired in mufti (he favors single-breasted, white linen suits), the 
Generalissimo could pass for a man born to wealth and good taste. His 
shirts are custom made, with initials on the left sleeve. His links, some- 
times of extravagant design, are either gold or platinum. A near-feminine 
token is a bejeweled military identification bracelet. But it is in neckties 
that he excels. Nanita points out that "his collection of neckties is famous." 
Trujillo adores hand-painted originals, often costing as much as $100. 

Yet, in uniform his chest bedecked with medals the Benefactor takes 
on the gorgeous appearance of a tropical macaw. His favorite dress uni- 
form (worth $10,000) which might come straight from a comic-opera 
stage, is a symphony of gold. It combines a white-plumed hat thickly 
crusted with gold braid, gold brocaded swallow-tailed coat with hefty 
epaulets, tricolored sash and gold-striped blue trousers. The sash is a dis- 
tinctive feature of all the Generalissimo's uniforms. 

It is the plumed hat that Trujillo considers the supreme symbol of his 
rank. He, and occasionally little Hector, the President, are the only per- 
sons in the country permitted to sport such headgear. When Anselmo A. 
Paulino, the Benefactor's favorite and right-hand man for seven years, 
fell into disgrace in August 1954, one of the charges against him, as 
printed in El Caribe, was that he had been photographed in the privacy of 
his bedroom wearing a plumed hat. For days the entire machinery of gov- 
ernment investigated the whereabouts of Senor Paulino's hat and the 
photo of it. 

The Benefactor moves easily with people of wide culture. "The Gen- 


eralissimo himself is known as a host who combines dignity with a great 
sense of humor," wrote the American journalist Stanley Walker, author 
of two eulogistic books on Trujillo printed and distributed at the Dominican 
taxpayers' cost by the Caribbean Library of the Dominican Information 
Center of New York City. "He talks well, easily and confidently, on many 
subjects, whether in ordinary conversation or in set speeches." 

It is well known, however, that Trujillo is neither an eloquent nor a 
forceful speaker. His high-pitched voice has proved an insurmountable 
stumbling block. His delivery is stiff, and it is rather pathetic to hear him 
stammering and struggling through the pronunciation of the strange, high- 
sounding words which Palace ghost-writers insert in his written speeches. 
Trujillo's style, however, is not cramped by these shortcomings since, un- 
like other modern dictators, his political success is not based on his ability 
to move vast masses of men by force of words. 

Though sometimes flamboyant and usually pompous in his public be- 
havior, Trujillo is deliberate and even modest in private and direct con- 
versations. A man of few words, his answers usually preceded by a 
silence of seconds are sharp, brief, always to the point. He is an atten- 
tive listener, but at times he takes on an absent-minded appearance and 
then there is no answer forthcoming to the requests put to him. This is 
the situation most feared by his aides, because no one is supposed to press 
thereafter any issue thus dealt with by Trujillo. Those few daring enough 
to break this rule have regretted it. 

In his conferences with foreigners these qualities are exceedingly help- 
ful and tend to cover much of TrujiEo's ignorance and lack of culture. By 
listening attentively he manages to give the impression of a readiness to 
deal with issues on their merits without the usual fog of demagogic ideo- 
logical jargon expected from most dictators. "He never gets bombastic," a 
foreign collaborator remarked. "He talks to you as one man to another. He 
does not try to indoctrinate you," was the reaction of an American news- 
paperman whom I accompanied on a visit to the Palace. 

As a rule, visitors come from a short visit to Trujillo's office convinced 
that "the Chief" is unfailingly well-informed on international developments. 
The truth is, however, that beneath Ms well-groomed appearance and so- 
cial charm, acquired late in life, the Generalissimo remains at heart the 
same crude village tough who enlisted in the Constabulary. Under Tru- 
jillo's outward self-assurance and seemingly controlled physical reactions 
lies a flaming and lethal temper, which explodes in fierce outbursts of 
wrath at the slightest show of opposition to his will whenever things go 
wrong or subordinates do not carry out orders with the expected celerity. 
Then Trujillo's voice takes on a shrill quality, almost effeminate. 

In my personal relations with Trujillo I never had to suffer one of his 
outbursts of temper; I tried always to keep our contacts on a businesslike 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 74 

level. In my frequent interviews with him he never used a biting word, 
although sometimes when I was waiting in the anteroom of his office I 
would hear him dressing down one of his subordinates: "Imbeciles, im- 
beciles" he would shout, "I'm surrounded by imbeciles." 

Few people know, however, when Trujillo is really mad or just acting. 
He possesses an enormous histrionic talent, which he does not waste. I 
remember one particular occasion in which after scolding and humiliat- 
ing in my presence his long-time favorite the present Ambassador to the 
United States, Manuel de Moya, in the most degrading fashion, I caught 
the Benefactor making gestures at the back of his departing bowing and 
worried aide. Then he laughed as if nothing had happened and sat down 
to business with me in a jovial manner. (De Moya forgave Trujillo but 
not me. That day I earned a powerful enemy inside the inner circle.) 

This talent allows Trujillo, when occasion warrants it, to assume a con- 
trite look. His face can look very sad to a widow whose husband has 
just been murdered on his orders. 


gone places all his life because he toils while Ms competitors and foes rest. 
The Generalissimo marches on as the dean of all living dictators. Asked 
once why it so happened, Trujillo snapped: "Because I work at my job." 

Trajillo's working day is a grueling routine. It is not unusual for him to 
spend nine or ten hours a day at his desk, working longer and harder than 
any of his subordinates. He is an early riser, and sleepy cabinet members 
are often aroused at four in the morning to be asked by the Benefactor 
about matters concerning their departments. On one occasion a Secretary 
of Agriculture was called from bed about a missing mule. 

A normal working day begins with appropriate pomp a few minutes be- 
fore seven on the morning when Trujillo is in the capital. The palace guards 
stiffen at attention and bugles sound when a black limousine glides through 
the main gate. A few seconds later the Generalissimo steps out and goes 
up in a private elevator to his offices in the eastern wing of the enormous 
building. Contrary to what many people believe, the Benefactor does not 
live in the four-million-dollar Palace he built in 1947; his offices are 
there. In the Palace's gilded salons he conducts state business, receives 
ambassadors and delegations and entertains foreign dignitaries. 

As an important part of his early morning routine he sees the group of 
civilian aides working at the Palace, led by the Secretary of the Presidency, 
who at present is his nephew Luis Ruiz Trujillo. To them he gives in- 
structions for official decrees, directives and appointments, which once 


prepared are taken to the opposite wing of the Palace for brother Hector's 
signature. Then he receives Ms military and secret police aides and finally 
hears complaints against high-handed unauthorized treatment by local Gov- 
ernment officials in the interior as well as appeals for personal help. Next, 
his business manager Tirso Rivera comes into TnijIHo's office with re- 
ports about the vast ramifications of the trujillista business empire, with 
the exception of sugar, which is handled by "the Big One's" financial 
wizard, Dr. Jesus Maria Troncoso. 

Then he starts his reading chores. Since he does not like to look over 
any document longer than one page, a small specialized staff digests the 
voluminous reports pouring in daily from ministries, provincial governors, 
police agencies, informers and the Partido Dominicano. All this sum- 
marized correspondence provides a weathervane to indicate currents in 
people's feelings as well as the raw material for the slashing letters and 
news stories planted in the newspapers to terrorize foes and friends. 

To keep himself abreast of developments abroad the Generalissimo re- 
lies on the secret service reports, which include monitored versions of news 
agency dispatches, editorials or opinion columns of direct concern to the 
Dominican Republic or of general interest. 

Next come the audiences, which start at about 11 o'clock and take the 
rest of the morning. TrujiUo talks almost daily with each of his senior 
aides (who are not necessarily cabinet officers) but no one visits him with- 
out explicit invitation. Each aide is allowed a few minutes of "the Chief's" 
time, but hardly anyone is asked to sit down. 

At 12 sharp the Benefactor takes his private elevator to the third 
floor, where lunch Is served for him and a handful of his most trusted as- 
sistants, including the President. While eating, Trujillo keeps on discussing 
official business. Luncheon is followed by a half-hour walk and then Tru- 
jillo goes home for Ms siesta. 

Around 3:30 in the afternoon the Generalissimo is back at the National 
Palace for another two or three hours of intense labor. Sometimes he does 
his afternoon work at home, with the help of only one or two secretaries. 
Though a professedly devout Catholic, "the Chief has not missed a single 
Sunday morning at his office during the past twelve years. However, Sun- 
day afternoons he goes to the race track to see his own horses win. 

When in town Trujillo performs a well-publicized piece of filial duty 
every evening at 6:30 he visits his mother's home. "A warmly affectionate 
son," he is called by one of his official biographers. 

Trujillo regards walking as the most healthful exercise. After visiting 
his mother, he takes a two or three mile walk daily. These strolls are a 
torture for some of Ms younger, less robust cronies forced to follow him at 
a very fast pace along the sidewalks of George Washington Avenue, the 
broad thoroughfare that borders the Caribbean Sea shoreline. 

TRUJCLLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 76 

It is on this Avenue that, four times a week, "the Chief sits at the sea- 
wall and holds evening court or what a friendly American reporter called 
"impromptu cabinet meetings." Nothing important, however, is ever de- 
cided in these meetings, dedicated almost exclusively to small talk. The 
newest piece of local gossip and the unprintable stories currently in vogue 
are welcomed, but serious matters are seldom brought up, and then only if 
Trujilio himself shows an interest. 

"This is a moment of relaxation and the Chief must be amused, not over- 
burdened with the dead weight of official business," explained one of the 
habitues. Yet, if the boss always derives fun, the amusement is seldom 
shared by his subordinates attending these evening sessions. They are 
usually the butt of practical jokes, not always in the best taste. Sometimes 
a timely and sharply pointed joke or a particularly pugnacious comment 
from a rival's mouth has proved to be a high official's undoing. 

Foreign observers who have seen the Benefactor setting the pace for 
his small army of aides often inquire about the methods used by Trujilio 
when selecting these companions. I do not know of any special invitations 
being issued, though when a man is not wanted he is told so in a very 
blunt way by one of Trujillo's bodyguards. High army officers are always 
welcomed, as long as they keep their mouths closed and participate in 
the general conversation only when asked a direct question. 

In mid-week there is a change of routine. From Wednesday to Friday 
"the Big One" retires to his estate at his home town of San Cristobal. 
While in seclusion, the telephone is Trujillo's most important channel for 
communicating with subordinates. He talks several times a day with his 
most important collaborators, but only a few hand-picked aides can visit 
Las Caobas, the luxurious mahogany mansion buUt by Trujilio in the cen- 
ter of his huge farm, Hacienda Fundacion. 

There, however, not all is rest, nor does "the Big One" retire to plough 
fields, search the writings of the greatest philosophers or ponder the mis- 
sion of man. Sometimes though not with the frequency of bygone days 
retirement is a front for the celebration of brilliant, prolonged soirees. 

Trujillo's antics at Las Caobas have generated his widespread fame as a 
hard drinking man. Yet, this much talked-about subject is one on which 
even his official biographers have not reached an agreement. For instance, 
Nanita says: "Despite his ability to withstand the intoxicating effects of al- 
cohol, (Trujilio) is a light drinker." Stanley Walker says: "He enjoys good 
liquor in the company of friends, especially fine old Spanish brandy, and 
he sips it with the aplomb of the true caballero" 

The truth is that the Benefactor used to be a real aficionado in his 
youth and middle age. Lately, however, he barely touches the cup outside 
Las Caobas and even there parties are no longer as gay and prolonged as 
they used to be. At diplomatic and official receptions he slowly sips an oc- 


casional glass of champagne or a cup of Carlos Primero, the aged Spanish 
brandy he strongly favors. 

Let us not imply that Trujilio is reaching retirement. Nor may anyone 
call him a saint his escapades with the opposite sex (not always gen- 
tlemanly or discreet) are still too numerous for that. He is still much the 
same person whose charm has deceived many men and enthralled as many 
women. As he lives in a Latin country, where manhood still is measured 
by the number of females a man has been able to subdue, Trujillo's prowess 
with women commands a great deal of public attention. As Theodore 
Draper pointed out, "One of the few liberties that his hangers-on take with 
his private life is to joke boastfully about his exploits with women." 

Nanita describes Trujillo's charm, in the fourth edition of his widely 
circulated biography, in the following terms: "Women delight him. He is 
unfailingly gallant, attentive and considerate toward them. He enjoys being 
in their company. A pretty feminine face is for him the best introduction 
card. Handsome and striking in bearing, it hardly need be added that his 
enormous popularity with the fair sex stems from something other than 
politics. When he makes his way through enthusiastic crowds, many a look 
of admiration from feminine eyes and many sighs are sent his way for the 
man he is, independently of his being a national hero." (Italics added.) 

The phrase "A pretty -feminine face is for him the best introduction 
card" was dropped from subsequent editions of Nanita's book, now in its 
tenth. The dropping followed the publication in the American press of 
sly remarks of the kind to which the Benefactor is allergic. 

Being too busy to court beautiful girls himself, Trujilio has special aides 
charged with that chore. The years pass but the fires of passion are not 
smothered in Trujillo's heart, so even to this day many Dominicans, in- 
cluding fathers and brothers, make their good fortunes over the virtue of 
a beautiful and willing female relative or friend. Notwithstanding rumors 
to the contrary, other men's wives are not in demand, since Trujilio likes 
to hold exclusive rights upon his women. His favorites and former girl 
friends are all "marked women" and no man can get close to them without 
risk. Women, moreover, are invariably one of the main sources of much 
information as well as useful gossip for the Benefactor. 

There are still other things about which Trujilio brags his horseman- 
ship and his capability to dance a good merengue, the Dominican national 
dance. Moreover, during Ms stay at his country home he practices the only 
two sports at which he is proficient: riding and shooting. The merengue 
he dances well, and when he is at a party the orchestra always plays a good 
many of them, especially those whose words describe his glories. 

Unquestionably "the Big One" is a man without hobbies or cultural and 
artistic interests. Looking for a justification of this, Nanita put it this way: 
"He is free of fetishes and quirks. He likes animals but not exaggeratedly. 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 78 

Nor is he exaggeratedly fond of hunting and fishing; neither can he be 
called a sports fan." Then the biographer adds: "Unlike Franklin Delano 
Roosevelt he is not a philatelist; nor does he collect coins as did the late 
King Victor Emmanuel; nor lions and tigers as did Goering and Juan 
Vicente Gomez of Venezuela. His sole hobby is horses, which he rides 
masterfully." Lately, indeed, "the Chief" does not miss a horse race or a 
polo game. 

"Although the Generalissimo for years has had several residences, or at 
least homes which he could call his own, in various parts of the country, 
his official residence is adjacent to the residence of the American Am- 
bassador in Ciudad Trujillo," wrote biographer Stanley Walker. 

This latter place is called Estancia Rhadames, after Trujillo's youngest 
legitimate son. A huge marble compound, one finds in it a curious jumble 
of decorative styles: undistinguished Spanish oil paintings on the walls, 
delicate French furniture and an almost absurd display of mahogany. Tru- 
jillo is so obsessed with mahogany, which he considers the hallmark of 
luxury, that he made Congress pass a law in September 1957 instituting 
the flower of the mahogany tree as the "national symbol." 

Walker's description of Trujillo's residence is almost complete. "This 
splendid estate is one of the finest in the whole Caribbean area. The man- 
sion has rooms for receptions, study and entertainment. There is a dentist's 
office, a motion picture theater, lounges, a beauty parlor, a barber shop, 
sewing rooms, a swimming pool, a gymnasium, an ice-skating rink built 
especially for young Rhadames, and several bars. The parlors, dining halls 
and living quarters are splendid. There are also quarters for the military 
guard." Walker missed the nine-foot wall that surrounds the estate. 



surmounted powerful disadvantages, has fallen under a humorless con- 
straint to prove himself a superior being. Trujillo regards himself an in- 
strument of God, a chosen man with a great mission to perform. He longs 
for people to fawn upon him and call him the greatest humanitarian ever. 
He derives immense pleasure when his hired or conscripted apologists write 
lengthy accounts of his achievements as protector of the needy, as f orgiver 
of his foes and as the open-hearted, benevolent father of his people. Spir- 
itual values, however, have no genuine appeal for Trujillo. Nevertheless, 
for publicity purposes he will carry to any length his efforts to give an 
overlay of humanitarianism to actions inspired by the most selfish impulses 
of his insatiable egotism. 
The following incident will serve as illustration. On January 1, 1950, I 


was called to appear before TrajiUo, who explained to me that he was 
considering the possibility of releasing my brother Horacio, condemned 
a few months earlier to thirty years in prison for participation in the abor- 
tive revolutionary invasion of Luperon. Generously enough, the Benefac- 
tor advised me that my brother's health had been impaired as result of 
prison life and showed a concern lest grave complications would be forth- 
coming. He suggested that a trip to the exclusive mountain resort of Con- 
stanza would do a lot of good. 

Ten days later Horacio was released, and even though the Benefactor's 
reports on his health had proved exaggerated, he was sent for a rest cure 
to Constanza. In the glow of seeing my brother free I sent a warm letter 
of gratitude to the Benefactor, written in the only language Dominicans are 
allowed to address themselves to him. 1 

Without seeking a belated justification for my action, I may say that at 
the time I was not assailed by any uncomfortable suspicion that what was 
going on was just another of Tnijillo's "humanitarian" plays. I thought that 
"the Chief" was beginning to feel normal pangs of conscience. Prior to 
that moment, ever since my brother's capture in the wake of the unfor- 
tunate landing he had led, Trujillo had been adroitly exploiting the cir- 
cumstance that two brothers were so prominently placed on opposite 
sides of the fence. Since all through the revolutionary attempt which 
lasted only one day and thereafter, I had been allowed to stay at my 
job as editor-in-chief of El Caribe, the trujillista propaganda machine 
found itself with an excellent melody to play in support of their conten- 
tion that "the Big One" was an understanding, open-minded, good-hearted, 
democratic leader. To say the least, they were cannily using my brother 
and me to bolster Trajillo's forlorn prestige before international public 
opinion. Though the obvious maneuver could hardly escape my attention, 
there was not much I could do. Fearful of further endangering Horacio's 
personal security, I did not take refuge in a foreign embassy (a recourse 
not yet closed to Dominicans) as advised by trusted friends. 

But when I was advised of Horacio's freedom, I did not know that the 
curtain had not been drawn over the sordid play. My first contact with 
the hard face of truth did not take place until a few days later, upon re- 
ceiving word that my brother was on his way back from Constanza, and 
that he would stay at my home. Then I learned that he was scheduled to 
appear as a witness before a fact-finding group of the Organization of 
American States, then conducting a sweeping investigation of the troubled 
Caribbean political situation. 

Had I needed any further proof of the motives behind the Benefactor's 
sudden concern for my brother's health, I would have found it at a forth- 

1 Lately my letter to Trujillo has been widely circulated by Dominican press agents 
to show my ungratefulness and my former unreserved admiration for the Benefactor. 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 80 

coining reception held at the Jaragua hotel. To convey the news of his lat- 
est act of "generosity" to his distinguished guests, Trujillo played another 
mean trick. While talking with a group of the visiting diplomats he sent 
for me. After introducing me to the ambassadors, "the Chief" asked me 
a few irrelevant questions and then, in a matter of fact tone, inquired 
about my brother's health. "How was Ms trip down from Constanza?" was 
his next question. Expertly prompted by him I was forced to tell the full 
story of his humanitarian gesture, for the benefit of the foreign ambassa- 

There are brighter sides to Trujillo's touching concern for the health 
and welfare of his friends and foes. He stakes a claim as a man of wide 
cultural interests as well as protector of arts and sciences, and for his efforts 
in favor of the full enlightenment of his fellow citizens there have been be- 
stowed on him such titles as "First Teacher of the Dominican Republic," 
"First Journalist," etc. The University of Santo Domingo made him a 
"doctor honoris causa" in all its disciplines, a gesture that found its coun- 
terpart in another such honorary degree awarded to the Benefactor by 
the University of Pittsburgh. 

Notwithstanding his array of titles and degrees, it is the truth that Tru- 
jillo not only lacks formal education, but has not made any effort to ac- 
quire any culture by himself, except the formal social manners which per- 
mit him to carry on a conversation and impress casual guests at social 

Trujillo's detractors claim that he has never read a book in his life. In 
rebuttal one of his apologists cites the titles of two books "the Chief" has 
not only read, but keeps on top of his desk. Nanita asserts that "of the fine 
arts he prefers music and poetry, although he has not delved deeply into 
either/' The official biographer further claims that Trujillo once wrote a 

From what I personally know, the Benefactor's reading habits are not 
very discriminating. He does not read much and when he does, he rarely 
shows good judgment. He is an avid reader of pulp magazines and ac- 
cording to Hy Gardner, columnist of the New York Herald Tribune, the 
Benefactor is one of the distinguished foreign subscribers to Confidential 

As a "doctor honoris causa" and also as a duly appointed professor of 
economics at the University Law School, the Benefactor can extend, and 
usually does, his authority into any area of professional conduct. Through 
his reading of magazines of the kind that carry patent medicine advertise- 
ments, Trujillo has acquired such a high medical culture that in the sum- 
mer of 1956 he felt himself ready to offer his advice to Dominican phy- 
sicians. He printed an advertisement in El Caribe's issue of July 8, 1956, 
arrogating for himself the right to be called in consultation by Dominican 


doctors whenever they were faced by a particularly difficult case. This re- 
markable advertisement suggested that doctors write him, care of the 
Medical Department, National Palace, any time they wanted the help of 
his medical knowledge. 

The reception given by the medical class to the offer has not been re- 
corded, but a few days later El Caribe printed a letter to the Benefactor, 
signed by one Doctor Jose G. Soba, thanking him for Ms "lofty disposition" 
to assist the Dominican physicians. Soba pointed out the enormous bene- 
fits the doctors might derive from Trujillo's advice, since the latter had 
at his disposal the means of acquiring information that were beyond the 
physicians' reach. Soon thereafter Soba was appointed Secretary of Public 
Health. On October 18, 1956, El Caribe printed another advertisement 
stating that as result of a consultation held with the Benefactor a dying 
patient had recovered his health. 

This was not a joke. To be sure, the Generalissimo is a man with a sense 
of humor, but of quite another sort. Two examples will suffice to show 
Trujillo's humor at its best. In 1952 Trujilo spread the rumor inside the 
country that he would soon start training a military unit to be sent to 
Korea to fight side by side with the United States forces. True enough, the 
drafting of its members started shortly thereafter. Helped by the stringent 
provisions of the Conscription Act, the Benefactor ordered the military 
authorities to recruit 400 men, but only among those classified as "sub- 
versives" by the secret police. "Since they love democracy so much, I'll 
give them an opportunity to die for it," said the Benefactor. 

Within a few weeks men from all walks of life as well as all ages were 
drilling at the naval base across the Ozama river opposite downtown Ciudad 
Trujillo. Only the beginning of the peace talks at Panmunjon kept these 
people from giving their lives on foreign soil for the democracy they do 
not have at home. 

In April 1956 the distinguished socialist Norman Thomas, who had ex- 
pressed some barbed criticism of Trujillo's methods of terror, received a 
telegram inviting him to visit the Dominican Republic, where he would be 
given an "apotheosis as welcome." Supposedly sent by the Partido Social- 
ista Popular (communist), the telegram carried the alleged signatures of 
four well-known Dominicans who were at the time serving jail terms on 
Trujillo's orders, including my own father. None of the signers had ever 
been a sympathizer of the communist movement. 

"Beware of the small things with Trujillo. They cause the biggest out- 
bursts and the worst crises," explained to me a man who had worked close 
to "the Big One" long enough to know that much. As a journalist I had sev- 
eral opportunities to prove the wisdom of my friend's advice. During my 
early days of reporting, one of my jobs was to write the social column of 
the daily La Nadon, then owned by Trujillo personally. The Benefactor 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 82 

himself made that reporting job one of the most taxing I have ever per- 
formed. He was the severest censor of the requirements for a person to 
appear in the social column and censorship even affected members of his 
own family. There were no definite criteria to keep a person out other than 
TrajiUo's caprices, so I never knew what to do. Consequently, hardly a day 
went by without receiving a summons to the publisher's office who, 
patiently enough, would explain to me the nature of the latest complaints 
from, as he used to call it, the "heights." The most frequent one was about 
the appearance in my column, not the name of an enemy of the regime (I 
was not that stupid), but the name of a relative of a relative of some ob- 
scure exile. I finally quit the job. 

Before giving up, however, I remember a furious call personally made by 
the First Lady on me instead of my publisher, objecting to the insertion 
of the name of a socially prominent person. To my dismay I found out 
later that by doing this I had reopened in the kind lady's heart an old 
wound caused by a still remembered social slight received years before. 

On another occasion I was fired and rehired within two hours. The 
trouble began with the publication of a front-page story reporting the ar- 
rival in the country of the late poet Osvaldo Bazil, one of Trujillo's earlier 
collaborators and most consistent drinking companions. He rated a front- 
page story, but what no one seemed to know at La Nation was that Bazil, 
who had been serving as Trujillo's Ambassador to Brazil, was returning in 
total disgrace. The Benefactor had sacked him upon receiving word that 
Ms friend, while drinking, had exposed himself in his underwear at a Rio 
de Janeiro hotel. 

As I would normally be in charge of covering such a story, TrujiUo 
thought I was guilty of the misdemeanor and ordered my publisher to 
fire me. Naturally, upon notification of the drastic measure I wanted to 
know what it was all about. Convinced of my innocence, since someone 
else had written the story, the publisher called the Palace to explain and 
Trujillo condescended to reinstate me. 

These were my first, but not last, contacts with this aspect of Trujillo's 
personality. Years later as editor and then publisher of El Caribe my ex- 
periences along these lines were bound to multiply. In the latter period I 
became accustomed to hear Trujillo complain about things ranging from 
the use of an objectionable photograph of himself (he hates to be shown 
smiling) to the failure to run the cut of Trujillo's late father on the front 
page. Once I spent a full morning with the peerless leader scanning the 
collection of His Excellency's pictures then in El Caribe' s morgue. After a 
thorough look at each one, Trujillo himself red-penciled those he wanted 
to be discarded. 

This shows how difficult it is to work under the Benefactor's supervision, 
especially since for him practically everything depends on personal whims. 




Tnijillo's life is whether he is courageous. No one can produce facts to sup- 
port the contentions that he is a gallant knight or a coward. 

Twice he has received medals awarded by Congress to honor his sup- 
posed bravery. However, none of the acts cited in the whereases of the 
"heroic laws," borrowing a phrase from de Galindez, can be properly cov- 
ered by a comprehensive definition of courage. Furthermore, outside of a 
few skirmishes against so-called bandits during the American military oc- 
cupation, there is no record that the Generalissimo has ever been under 
fire. On the other hand, the recalcitrant enemies who describe the Bene- 
factor as a physical coward have not been able to produce any evidence 
in support of this charge. 

The Generalissimo no doubt is a man who takes good care of his per- 
sonal security. But this might be because he wants to live longer and bet- 
ter than any other man. Many acts which are interpreted as betraying 
cowardice are normal precautions which no Chief of State would shun. 
Whenever necessary, Trujillo confronts peril with resolution. Although 
avowedly wary of airplanes (he does not allow his Air Force General son, 
Rafael, Jr., to fly), he has traveled by air several times. Of course, he 
prefers his yachts of which there are two always ready to sail. 

Trujillo is one of the most closely guarded rulers in the world. Estancia 
Rhadames is surrounded by a nine-foot wall and guarded day and night 
by hand-picked sharpshooters of the Presidential Guard. As an extra 
measure of security the residence was built next door to the American 
Embassy. Its other neighbors are carefully screened by the secret police; 
those who do not satisfy these exigent watch-dogs are invited to move. 

Also guarded by high walls and scores of sentries and secret service men 
is the National Palace. Within its walls are quartered the seasoned vet- 
erans of the Presidential Guard, whose loyalty is constantly checked. 

Before entering the Palace enclosure, visitors must check with security 
officers inside the building. Only after a careful investigation of the pur- 
pose of the visit are they allowed to pass the gates. Once inside they are 
kept within sight of guards and plain-clothes agents of the secret police. 
Even high officials working at the Palace need a special entrance card. 

American journalists who have seen Trujillo during his daily stroll or at 
work in his Palace office, his back to an open door one hundred feet 
from the street, have gathered the impression that the Benfactor is a man 
who does not take much care of his personal security. They wonder why 
no one has tried such a seemingly easy thing as taking a pot shot at him. 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 84 

Others, however., have had an opportunity to see better, for instance, the 
New York Herald Tribune reporter who interviewed "the Chief" in Sep- 
tember 1957. "Five persons were present during the interview in the large, 
mahogany paneled, blue-walled reception room adjacent to the General- 
issimo's private office in the National Palace the Generalissimo, Manuel 
de Moya, Dominican Ambassador to the United States, an interpreter, this 
reporter, and an armed soldier who remained unobtrusively in the door- 
way." Anyone who late in the afternoon happens to follow the planned 
itinerary for Trujillo's evening strolls could hardly miss seeing a police van 
discharging policemen armed with sub-machine guns. The men are dis- 
creetly placed, ten to fifteen paces apart, inside front yards, behind 
bushes, on the cliffs and other carefully selected points along the route. 
Two officers always precede Trujillo and his entourage, advising people on 
the boulevard to move along. Sometimes, though not as a rule, traffic is 
detoured. When Dominicans see discreetly placed sentries and convoys of 
police around any public place or residence, they know that "the Big 
One" is in the neighborhood. 

But if Trujillo has been denied opportunity to show courage under fire, 
in the field of verbal battles he has fought with distinction. He enjoys ex- 
changing blows and he never hits above the belt. His punch is directed 
where it hurts the reputation, character and private lives of his oppo- 
nents. He has become so accustomed to this kind of warfare that, as one 
of his collaborators said, "He is like a fighting cock. When he does not 
have an adversary he gets restless and sometimes pecks at his own shadow." 

However, he will not fight if there is not a good omen. This he once 
admitted to one of his biographers. "There is luck in life, of course," Tru- 
jillo said. "Chance plays its part. Destiny has its effect. But for me these 
things don't matter. I believe in them, but I'm not affected by them." 

However, it is said that his well-known fear of hurricanes comes from 
the prophecy of a witch who told him that as he came into power with 
a hurricane (the one that struck the capital city seventeen days after his 
first inauguration), he would go out with another one. The strange thing 
is that since 1930 not one has struck the country. But at the slightest warn- 
ing of a big blow my office at El Caribe used to be deluged by frantic 
phone calls from the Palace. 

Ostensibly Trujillo is now a practicing Catholic. In 1954 he traveled 
to Rome to sign a Concordat with the Pope, and Catholicism is the official 
religion of the Dominican Republic. The Vatican representative and the 
Church hierarchy are his best propagandists, and a Dominican priest, 
Fray Zenon Castillo, has compared him with Charlemagne and has ad- 
vanced the opinion that the Generalissimo should be officially appointed 
"Benefactor of the Church." 

Presumably, Trujillo joined the Church actively because his third wife, 


whom he had wed in a civil ceremony, wanted to sanctify their union. 
Twice divorced, Trujillo, whose first marriage was in the Church, was not 
a likely candidate for a Catholic wedding. Yet somehow he won the neces- 
sary indulgences and the rites were performed by the Papal Nuncio on the 
First Lady's birthday, August 9, 1955. 



sort of self-interest, concealed now by one, now by another, mask of high- 
sounding words. It is almost a hopeless task to seek out any political prin- 
ciple to which the Generalissimo has adhered consistently. 

Trujillo's lack of a social philosophy or a definite political creed has 
never hampered his successful bid for absolute power. Everything he does 
is done with one purpose in mind: to retain absolute power. In his unwaver- 
ing determination to do so, he has not hesitated at any betrayal of earlier 
friends or alleged convictions, nor shrunk from any alliances in order to 
gain his ends. His is pragmatism in its basest form. Thus he has been 
at one time or another either a friend of the Nazis or an apologist for the 
Soviet Union and then a few years later a champion of the Church and a 
valiant knight fighting almost single-handed the Red Dragon. 

Whatever Ms inner beliefs, Trijullo always assimilated without much 
effort what is good for him even if it means a reversal of previous atti- 
tudes or a synthesis of discordant theories. 

There is not a shred of evidence (except in matters of anti-Communism) 
that TrujiHo has contributed anything constructive to the contemporary 
philosophy of Government. His remarkable material accomplishments as 
well as his astonishing shortcomings puzzle many observers of the Latin 
American scene. Here they have a man who eludes classification, either 
as a modern totalitarian dictator or as a classical Latin caudillo. But, any- 
way, the fervor of his followers among whom are a few sincere believers 
the fury of his enemies, along with his own frenetic energy, assure Tru- 
jillo a place as a living legend. 


His supporters and paid apologists picture Trajillo as a genius if not a 
demigod. (The most popular tmjillfsta slogan has been for years "God and 
Trajillo.") He is the avowed enemy of Communism, the defender of the 
faith, the creator of the New Fatherland, the benefactor and paternal 
leader of a whole nation. 

Still to a few others, including a highly influential group of American 
legislators, high diplomatic and defense officials, Trujillo is a strong polit- 
ical and military ally of the United States and an uncompromising foe of 
the Soviet Union, whose many faults must be forgiven just for that reason. 
These torch-carriers for the Benefactor quote him as saying that he 
would throw Dominican sugar into the sea rather than sell it to the Reds 
as Cuba has been doing lately. A remark prompted perhaps by the fact 
that the Soviet Union had never approached "the Chief" with a good prop- 

After visiting the Dominican Republic, Theodore Draper wrote that Tru- 
jillo is by no means clearly classified. "He disgusts some people, fascinates 
others, and can disgust and fascinate simultaneously." 

Certainly there is no possible neutrality with respect to Trujillo either 
you are for him or against him. He, himself, recognizes only allies or en- 
emies and eliminates neutrals whenever possible. 

I knew Trujillo for several years and worked close beside him. I know 
that any honest attempt to be objective about this man, who almost defies 
objectivity, is likely to be unsuccessful. Yet I recognize that he is a prac- 
tical psychologist with the instincts of a pirate a tough, intelligent and 
canny character, from whom it is folly to expect either scruples or mercy. 

Trujillo's absolutism has many points of contact with modern totali- 
tarian dictatorships. Yet it lacks a significant feature common to all one- 
party states: an ideology. Most dictators want power in order to carry 
out some idea which may or may not be essentially an expression of their 
egos, but Trujillo has not developed a coherent doctrine of his own. 

The Generalissimo is not a systematic thinker, nor has he tried to build 
a comprehensive order of political philosophy in which his rule could find 
a theoretical basis, in the manner of Juan Peron's justicialismo or Colom- 
bia's former dictator Gustavo Rojas Pinilla's "third force." 

Nowhere can even a speech be found in which Trajillo sets forth ideas 
that might be evolved into a theory of government. His famous primer 
Cartilla Civica, which is required reading in Dominican schools, is a hodge- 
podge of platitudes coupled with a few banal pieces of advice on how to 
apprehend revolutionists attempting to overthrow the regime. 

Nor are there any original political ideas in Tmjillo's widely distrib- 
uted speech "Evolution of Democracy in Santo Domingo," which is always 
handed to foreign visitors (including Vice President Richard Nixon) as a 
summing-up of the Dictator's wisdom. The picture Trujillo paints in this 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 88 

tract is simple enough: he has done a lot of good for the country. He 
keeps order and has eliminated the Dominican deep-rooted practice of re- 
volt by following through the policy of disarmament of the population set 
forth by the U.S. Marines. He paid the country's external debt, setting 
what the United States State Department called "an example worthy of 
emulation," and through a policy of "honesty and efficiency" lie has im- 
proved sanitation and carried on a vast program of public works and eco- 
nomic development. Above all, he is a friend of the United States. "Side 
by side with the United States we entered the armed conflict in view of 
the treacherous Pearl Harbor attack." (It must be noted that not a single 
Dominican soldier ever fired a shot in World War II.) 

The importance of the fight against Communism scarcely needs em- 
phasis, and Trujillo's innate political intuition indicated to him from the 
outset that here was an issue to grab. Thus, when self-preservation and So- 
viet treachery forced the Western World into the "cold war," the General- 
issimo came forward to offer substantial verbal assistance. Without qualms 
Trujillo dropped his former Communist allies with whom he had made 
common cause at the end of World War II in an effort to bolster his dic- 
tatorship then tottering under the democratic winds sweeping away Latin 
American dictators. 

Again and again Trujillo has demonstrated Ms complete lack of in- 
terest in any positive theory of government. He has already given the 
Dominican Republic three constitutions, but save for a few provisions in- 
serted in them to adjust the nation's legal structure to his passing whims, 
they have followed the democratic lines of practically all Latin American 
constitutions, based upon American and French liberal traditions. This 
does not mean that the Benefactor adheres to the letter or spirit of these 
instruments. Except for attaching his name to the brand-new Magna 
Chartas, Trujillo has never paid any heed to their provisions. For years 
he has ruled the country without bothering to be elected its President. He 
governs while nominally holding the rank of Generalissimo of the Armed 
Forces. Although a big array of honorary titles imbedded in the Consti- 
tution, such as "Benefactor of the Fatherland" and "Father of the New 
Fatherland," gives him the official status of an elder statesman, there is 
not a single constitutional provision authorizing the existing dual system 
under which Trujillo rules and the President is a figurehead in charge of 
receiving foreign ambassadors and rubber stamping executive orders. 

To Trujillo politics is not a system it is a great and contradictory 
panorama providing an outlet for his acute megalomania, his lust for 
power, Ms demagogic talents as well as Ms sharp ability for maneuver. At 
its best, Trujillo's is totalitarianism at the service of the absolute and un- 
trammeled personal will of one man. Notwithstanding broadly different 
opinions on "the Chiefs" work and personality, he still must be regarded as 


an example, though outstanding, of the classical unprincipled, ruthless 
Latin American dictator. "As a blend of the Emperor Jones and the Euro- 
pean authoritarians/' pointed out Time, "Dictator Trujillo and his ilk 
always seem bizarre to North Americans. But the southern dictators must 
be understood if Latin America is to be understood by the big neighbor in 
the North." 

The following reasons were the best the newspaper La Nadon could 
find to explain why Trujillo should stay in power: 

1. His work must be protected from sacrilegious hands which might 
sully or destroy it. 

2. He guarantees respect for Dominican sovereignty. 

3. He is forging a spirit of true nationality. 

4. He has put a stop to outrages, restored the principle of territoriality, 
and cleansed Dominicans of their old sins. 

5. His genius for statesmanship is essential to the part the country must 
play in the new world order. 

6. He will make the Dominican Republic the key of the new Amer- 
icanism in which all the peoples of the New World will cooperate. 

"Let the mad dogs bark," the newspaper wound up saying. "His enemies 
lack the stature to challenge him. While they talk, he works. While they 
try to destroy, he builds. While they discredit and like to satisfy petty pas- 
sions, he preaches harmony, imposes order, pays tribute to justice, furthers 
peace, and fosters work." 

All clues for the existence and performance of the regime must be 
sought in the character and personality of Trujillo himself in Ms serious, 
elusive capacity to reconcile the most flagrant contradictions and to ration- 
alize the grossest inconsistencies. Only by taking into account Tnijillo's 
preoccupation with what is good for Trujillo may we find the key to many 
of the seemingly contradictory policies of the regime. 

Trujillo has always shown a lightning-like perception of the needs of each 
passing moment. His extraordinary flair for the main chance, for the win- 
ning side of any controversy is illustrated by the remarkable changes that 
have taken place in his political attitudes. He incessantly preaches inter- 
national peace at any price, but has seldom hesitated to saber-rattle with- 
out embarrassment in matters of his own interest, as he did in De- 
cember 1949 when he forced Congress to pass a law authorizing him to 
declare war against any nation harboring enemies of his regime. 

Trujillo's complete lack of political inhibitions explains as well Ms 
baifling turnabouts, timed to keep him on the winner's band wagon in the 
field of international politics. Right after Pearl Harbor he was one of the 
first Latin American rulers to take his country into the war on the United 
Nations side, despite his former well-known Nazi sympathies. 

The Benefactor has boldly taken the place of self-appointed leader of the 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 90 

"anti-Communist crusade," and the Dominican press never misses an op- 
portunity to remind its readers that "the Chief" is a "champion of the 
Church, defender of Christian traditions and crusader against Commu- 
nism." High-ranking American guests are always told by Trujillo: "If I do 
not rule the Dominican Republic, the Communists will." He has conven- 
iently forgotten, of course, the occasion when he declared that the Soviet 
Union "will be forever recognized as one of the great forces for welfare 
and progress on which the democratic world can count." 

Today, in speeches and other public utterances Trujillo shamelessly pro- 
claims his right to the title of "First Anti-Communist of the World." In 
support of this contention, the Benefactor asserts that "this humble coun- 
try of the Caribbean (the Dominican Republic) anticipated the bewilder- 
ing, world-shaking events of today and initiated the great battle that will 
decide the fate of western civilization." 

Since the day he jumped on the anti-Communist band wagon, Trujillo 
has been discovering Red plots everywhere. Since he outlawed the Com- 
munist party he himself had allowed to operate in the country, his propa- 
ganda presents him as a gallant knight fighting single-handed the Red 
dragon. "Communism found us alone," Trujillo also asserted in his "demo- 
cratic" speech, "but indeed not lacking in courage and strength to thwart 
its designs and ward off its influence in the Caribbean." 

The Benefactor argues that his great anti-Communist feats were ac- 
complished without even "moral succor from an unbiased press." It seems 
that everybody else was bent on helping the Reds and "American news- 
papers either held off in a frigid, baffling silence favorable to the Commu- 
nist scheme, or, to go along with the plotting governments, plunged into 
a foul campaign to discredit our country and its leaders." 

Whether Trujillo believes his own scare stories is not important. What 
is frightening is the number of gullible ears in which they have been sown. 
Trujillo has evolved anti-Communism into a flourishing political business. 

Moreover, whatever the sincerity of his present vocal support of the 
struggle against Soviet imperialism, Trujillo has managed to instill into the 
important issue a dangerous element of confusion, particularly with re- 
spect to the identity of the actual communist leaders in Latin America as 
well as in the United States. There can be no doubt of the presence of 
Communists within Dominican opposition groups as well as in many other 
political organizations both in Latin America and the United States 
but Trujillo's habit of branding as a "communist agent" even his mildest 
journalistic critic and of forging alleged evidence of communist links on 
the part of his opponents hinders the work of those bona-fide agencies en- 
gaged in the all-important task of uprooting genuine Red conspirators. 1 

1 A personal incident illustrates this aspect of Trujillo 's methods. Shortly after my 
break with the Dominican regime I was confronted by the United States Immigration 


However, Tnijillo no longer fools as many people as he used to with 
Ms far-fetched anti-Red arguments. Recently, the Benefactor pompously 
announced the uncovering, presumedly by ids all-seeing spy system, of a 
"Caribbean Comintern," with headquarters at the Soviet Embassy in 
Mexico City and branch offices in New York City, Puerto Rico and Miami. 
Thereupon the Miami Herald took him to task and, without denying the 
existence of a Communist conspiracy, challenged "the Big One" to sub- 
stantiate his charges. "We have had a lot of dead cats thrown at us from 
time to time as we grew in size and international prestige," said the 
Herald. "This is the first time that we have heard it said that Red Russia 
is doing business here on an organized scale in an established office." The 
charges remain unsubstantiated. 

Asked to comment, Governor Luis Mufioz Marin, of Puerto Rico, 
brushed aside Trujillo's diatribes with disdain. Said he: "This is one more 
expression of the well-known tactic of dictators to try to represent them- 
selves as great enemies of Communism." 

Sometimes his own red herrings entice the Benefactor to odd positions. 
While, on one hand, he denies for foreign consumption the existence of 
Reds in his well-policed "anti-Communist Caribbean bulwark," on the 
other hand, he charges with "communism" all local opposition. When both 
assertions are made on the same day, they provide queer reading in the 
Dominican press. This happened when El Caribe reprinted on its front 
page an assertion made by Tnijillo to the Kansas City Star that he had 
destroyed all vestiges of communism in the Dominican Republic. On an 
inside page the newspaper printed charges of communism leveled against a 
group of Dominicans living within the country. 

However, despite Trujillo's press-agented hatred of "communism," 
there is an impressive parallelism of institutional features in his system 
of repression and in the Soviet Union. True, the totalitarianism of the 
Soviet Union differs from Trujillo's in doctrinal content a thing com- 
pletely lacking in the latter but in their ground-level operations there is 
real similarity between both tyrannies. The fundamental resemblance re- 
veals itself in many ways, even in their having some common enemies, as 
the persecution of the Jehovah's Witnesses in the Soviet Union and in the 
Dominican Republic shows. During the summer months of 1957 the Do- 
minican press printed a string of accusations by high Government offi- 

Service with photostat copies of membership cards, allegedly issued to my brother 
Horacio Ornes and myself by the Dominican Partido Socialista Popular (communist) 
on November 8, 1944. Under oath I charged the Trujillo regime with forging the 
evidence and pointed out the fact that the PSP did not come into existence until 1946, 
that is to say, two years after the issuing of the cards. I was faced with the same 
charge at the American Consulate in Havana, where I have gone to apply for a visa to 
enter the United States as a permanent resident. The fact that I was granted such a 
visa shows that the proof of Trujillo's forgery was established to the satisfaction of 
the American authorities. 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 92 

cials charging the Jehovah's Witnesses with "seditious and pernicious" 
activities. The chain reaction was set off the day a Jesuit priest named 
Mariano Vasquez Sanz denounced the sect over the Trujilio-owned radio 
network, La Voz Dominicana, as servants of Communism and labeled its 
adherents as "a perverse, astute, criminal, traitorous enemy." Thereupon 
a pastoral letter signed by Archbishops Ricardo Pittini and Octavio An- 
tonio Beras invited the priesthood to protect their parishioners from this 
"terrible heresy." The Witnesses were called in the press "Moscow's wit- 
nesses" and tools of international Communism. 

At the end of July Congress passed a law banning the sect and the fol- 
lowing month brought a storm of arrests, beatings and police brutality 
upon its members. As reported by Time, in the town of Salcedo 100 mem- 
bers were penned up in an army post. Elsewhere two missionaries were 
hauled into a cell, handed whips and ordered to lash each other. When 
they refused, each one got 21 lashes. One Witness "was beaten in the 
face until his eyes were nearly shut" and a boy was left "unconscious with 
blood coming from his ears and nose." It was found out later that his ear- 
drums were broken. Ten American Jehovah's Witnesses preachers were 
thrown out of the country, on orders from the Secretary of Security, Major 
General Arturo Espaillat. True to Dominican custom, the wave of terror 
was followed by a flurry of letters of recantation, whereby members of the 
sect renounced their faith and denounced their former associates. 

Almost simultaneously a similar persecution was being conducted within 
the Soviet Union. On September 4, 1957, the New York Herald Tribune 
printed an Associated Press dispatch, under a Moscow dateline, reporting 
that the Soviet newspaper Kazakhstan Pravda had charged "American 
imperialists" with organizing groups of Jehovah's Witnesses in the Central 
Asian Russian Republic of Kazakhstan. In a full-page article the Soviet 
organ asserted that publications from Brooklyn were being sent to Soviet 
citizens to "lure" them into joining with promises "of salvation after 
death," The tune was the same, but the devil's horns were painted a 
different color. 

Examples of striking similarities between the two regimes could be mul- 
tiplied. Trujillo, like Stalin and his heirs, claims to run a "democratic" 
state and, as in many countries behind the Iron Curtain, the majesty of 
the law has been invoked in the Dominican Republic to defend the purity 
of youth against the assaults of "rock'n'roll." 

These things do not seem to embarrass Trujillo whatsoever. With 
shrewd insight into the devious paths of practical politics, the Benefactor 
goes on performing elusive maneuvers, surprising trades, deals and alli- 
ances. When trouble looms ahead he shows caution, but when success 
beckons he becomes bold. Though presently he prefers the smear to the 
smash, he still employs physical terror to keep enemies in line. He has al- 


ways been able to surprise and frustrate the timorous and divided forces 
of Ms opponents. 

TrajiHo makes the most fantastic about-faces. He once allowed Hitler 
to operate in the Dominican coasts an around-the-clock refueling station 
for German submarines and proudly displayed on Ms chest Fascist and 
Nazi decorations, but he was also one of the first to proclaim adherence to 
the Charter of the United Nations. 

Although the Benefactor operates a police-state of his own, people the 
world over are accustomed to hear about Ms theatrical gestures in favor of 
oppressed minorities. Quite recently he offered haven in the Dominican 
Republic to 20,000 Hungarian "freedom fighters" as well as 5,000 Jewish 
refugees from Egypt. This strange situation prompted the New York Post 
to comment that "when political opponents are forced to flee TrujiUo's 
domain to protect their lives, it is small solace to be told that TrujDlo is 
helping some victims of another oppression." 

Faced with so many contradictory actions, there is hardly a Dominican 
who would pay any attention to "the Chiefs" public statements. They 
have become increasingly wary of anything sounding like propaganda. 
Wittingly or unwittingly, Trujillo has gradually brought to the surface one 
of the most dangerous and destructive impulses of the collective soul. A 
seemingly profound cynicism characterizes the Dominican people's atti- 
tude toward public affairs. They do not care for formal expressions of 
political creeds and always expect a great cleavage to develop between the 
spoken words and the actions of their leaders. Clearly, Trujillo profits by 
tMs situation since it tends by popular apathy to maintain the status quo. 

Distrust pervades public life in the Dominican Republic. Ever since he 
succeeded in grabbing all power for himself, Trujillo has been apprehensive 
that somewhere in his political woodpile there is a latter-day Rafael ready 
to do to him what he once did to his former protector and friend, General 
Horacio Vasquez. The Benefactor cannot escape the obsession that the 
same fate dogs Ms own footsteps and for that reason he never relaxes in 
Ms frantic efforts to entrench himself. 

"No hay enemigo pequeno" (no enemy is small) emphatically stated 
Trujillo in my presence on several occasions. This belief largely accounts 
for Ms peculiar manner of fighting even those enemies who after giving up 
the unequal battle on the home soil join the hosts of exiles. They are 
usually deprived of their legitimate civil rights; their property is confiscated 
and their relatives left beMnd in the country are held in prison or main- 
tained under constant police surveillance. 

Trujillo's sheer distrust of fellow human beings is so deeply entrenched, 
that he does not confide even in Ms closest associates. "Trujillo has no 
advisers," writes Abelardo Nanita in an admiring vein. Then he adds: 
"He is more impenetrable than a Chinese wall." Nanita also reveals that 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 94 

although various subordinates can be informed at the same time of a plan 
conceived by the Generalissimo "each one knows only the part assigned to 
him, the rest remaining in ignorance." 

According to Nanita, a man who has been close to Trujillo most of the 
last 27 years, it is "the Chief's" innate suspicion that will always save him 
from the political error that has ruined other Latin American rulers: "that 
the President himself supplied the arms and provided the prestige to the 
one who overthrew him." 

Trujillo's gift for snatching victory from seeming debacle was clearly 
demonstrated in 1937. Then the jury of international public opinion found 
him guilty as charged of ordering and directing the massacre of more than 
15,000 Haitians living in the Dominican Republic. Confronted with the 
grim evidence of his crime and caught beneath the crushing weight of in- 
ternational disapproval, the arrogant Generalissimo was all humbleness 
and humility. There was nothing left for the powerful Benefactor to do 
but retreat and without much further proof he agreed both to pay an in- 
demnity to the Haitian Government and to step out of the Presidency at 
the end of his term in 1938. With the latter provision he complied only 
after assuring himself of the safekeeping of his political and financial in- 
terests by assuming active command of the army and through the presiden- 
tial nomination and eventual election of his trusted and absolutely reliable 
hireling, Dr. Jacinto B. Peynado. 

His well cultivated garden in safe hands, the Generalissimo then retired 
to travel throughout the United States and Europe. As soon as the first 
fury of the international storm had blown over, the Benefactor emerged 
stronger and bolder from his apparent retirement, and, strangely enough, 
he was again enjoying the good graces of the community of nations. 

How was this miracle accomplished within a few months? Though the 
full story should have an entire chapter, we may say here that re- 
sponsible for the sudden reverse of the tide was one of the boldest master- 
strokes of modern press agentry. When no one wanted them, President 
Trujillo offered haven in Dominican territory, in 1938, to 100,000 suffer- 
ing German refugees seeking safer homes. By a colossal propaganda stroke 
Trujillo blurred the international sense of outrage over his recent pogroms. 
The massacred Haitians were forgotten in favor of the persecuted Jews 
and many a liberal who had been declaiming against Trujillo suddenly dis- 
covered that, after all, the Benefactor was not such a devil. That the 
pleasant dream never came true and not even 1,000 of the 100,000 in- 
vited refugees ever set foot on Dominican soil was of small consequence. 
The gesture, the nice words, the accompanying hopes were enough to 
reverse for many years to come the tide of public criticism against Trujillo 
outside the limits of his well-policed domain. The transformation of Tra- 


jillo the devil into Trujillo the "great humanitarian" had been successfully 

Judging by the long list of agents, apologists and admirers operating 
within and without the island republic, it must be admitted that Trujillo's 
system has been highly successful. That the method is not entirely fool- 
proof is illustrated, however, by the story of the visit to the Dominican 
Republic, early in 1953, of Herbert Matthews, of the New York Times. 

Trujillo knew of Matthews' probity, so upon hearing of the journalist's 
forthcoming visit to the country, the Benefactor decided to employ the 
"sweet" approach or red carpet treatment. The most important dignitaries 
of the regime received word to treat the distinguished visitor with all con- 
sideration. Anselmo A. Paulino, then Trujillo's "shadow," powerful alter 
ego and publisher of El Caribe, threw a lavish party for Matthews in his 
private home, which the pick of the trujillista retinue attended. Trujillo 
himself received Matthews for a long, cordial, off-the-record talk. When 
the journalist inquired about transportation to the refugee colony of Sosua, 
El Caribe put a plane at his disposal. 

Matthews' reaction was negative, "There is a measure of surveillance," 
he wrote, "or at least the impression of being watched, at all times, even 
though it takes the usually pleasant form of being accompanied everywhere 
by those who offer to help, and of being given parties and the most gen- 
erous sort of hospitality." He added that the Very Important Person 
treatment was so nicely tendered and so openhanded "that it is made to 
seem the height of ingratitude to be critical afterward." The duty of being 
frank, he asserted, carried inescapable regrets, but nonetheless he exposed 
all sides of the Trujillo regime. 

For his objective and straightforward rejection of the Generalissimo's 
trap, Matthews has since been one of the main targets of vitriolic trujillista 
propaganda. Upon Trujillo's personal instructions, Dominican newspapers 
occasionally print editorials and articles associating the name of the vet- 
eran correspondent with Communist causes. Lately, the slanderous cam- 
paign has been extended to foreign publications. A libelous article, signed 
by the President of the Partido Dominicano, Francisco Prats Ramirez, was 
printed in the Mexican newspapers El Universal and Excelsior, which lent 
themselves as sounding boards for Trujillo propaganda. Matthews was 
subjected to a particularly scurrilous attack, which included trumped-up 
charges of criminal association with Communist spies* 

Due to this ruthless method of dealing with enemies, Trujillo's impact 
outside the boundaries of his own country has been a strong one. Despite 
the fact he is lacking in an ideology, so well regarded is Trajillo's success 
by other Latin American dictators, that the latter have adopted Ms meth- 
ods as standard procedure. Rulers of larger countries, such as former 

TRUJUXO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 96 

Colombian strong-man Gustavo Rojas Pinilla, Venezuela's Marcos Perez 
Jimenez and Cuba's Fuigencio Batista, copy many of Trujillo's formulas 
of smashing Ms enemies through libelous propaganda, falsehoods, smear 
campaigns and the hiring of American public relations counselors. This 
trujillista influence was perceptively noticed in 1956 by the Inter American 
Press Association, when Colombian newspapers, supporting the then Dic- 
tator Rojas Pinilla, launched a drive intended to link certain IAPA offi- 
cials with the American Communists. The Colombian response to the 
IAPA stand in defense of freedom of the press, according to the Associa- 
tion's monthly bulletin, "smacked of similar fictitious rot ground out by 
Dictator Trujillo's propaganda machine." But, more ominous yet, Tru- 
jillo's lack of respect for the life of foreign citizens seems to have ex- 
tended to Ms counterparts of the Haitian military ruling board, whose police 
killed an American citizen at the end of September 1957 and blandly re- 
ported him dead of a "heart attack." 

As an integral part of Trujillo's political "philosophy," the smear has 
turned out to be double-acting and occasionally it is spattered on collab- 
orators as well. Drunk with power, the Benefactor looks with contempt 
upon the self-respect of his fellowmen. He expects loyalty and friendsMp 
from everyone, but he is not prepared to pay in kind. Hence> in addition 
to Ms known opponents, cMef among his victims are his closest collabora- 
tors as well as his own relatives. A thick skin seems to be the one tested 
qualification to hold Mgh office in Trujillo's administration. A man may 
be today a Mgh-ranking cabinet officer and tomorrow a minor official in 
the same department he headed. Legislators and judges as well as any other 
"elected" officials must hand their resignations to "the Chief" before taking 
oaths of office. Soviet-style purges, political trials and recantations are also 
part of Trujillo's system. Even the members of his own family, whom he 
professes to love dearly, hardly escape his brutal repression and have been 
known to take the rap whenever the Generalissimo's own political interest 
is at stake. When the marital escapades of Ms internationally known head- 
strong daughter Flor de Oro ultimately became a source of embarrassing 
publicity, "the Big One" restricted her to the Dominican Republic, where, 
disavowed and disinherited, she lives in oblivion. 

Late in 1954 an unforeseen incident forced Trujillo to cast still another 
of Ms kin in the role of scapegoat. A savage, cold-blooded, example- 
setting assassination "while trying to escape" of ten young prisoners, sup- 
posedly working in an army shooting range, awakened with sudden in- 
tensity the quietly dormant Dominican conscience. The youths had been 
sentenced a few days earlier to prison terms ranging up to thirty years for 
a gruesome hold-up of a Canadian-owned bank in the city of Santiago. 
The criminal undertaking had already left a death toll of two bank em- 
ployees and two policemen. 


To pacify the horrified citizenry, TmjMIo promptly demoted the Chief 
of the Staff of the Army (who happened to be Ms own nephew Major Gen- 
eral Virgilio Garcia Trujillo) and expelled from the force the military 
commander in Santiago, Colonel Ludovino Fernandez. A commission of 
prominent lawyers was appointed to investigate whether Colonel Fernandez 
could be indicted for, of all crimes, genocide. However, the commission 
never made a report of its findings and a few months later Fernandez was 
reinstated and promoted to the rank of brigadier general. 

With equally fantastic detachment Trujillo has made high office a step- 
ping-stone to an almost unbelievable scheme of personal enrichment. In 
Trujillo's mind the Presidency is just another opportunity to be exploited 
not only by the incumbent but also by the 150 or more Trujillo relatives 
billeted on the country. In the Army alone there are six generals whose 
names are Trujillo. So bold and systematic has been the plundering that 
according to conservative estimates the monthly income of the tax-exempt 
Trujillo clan surpasses $3 million. 

Under the new trujillista rules of ethics every action is judged, not by 
standards of right or wrong, but solely from the standpoint of whether it 
is in the interest of the ruling clique. Trujillo regards himself, therefore, 
above all laws man-made or God-given and believes them poppycock. 
Even the Russian czars who would permit no man to reduce their abso- 
lute power respected the Criminal Code and sometimes permitted their 
actions to be tempered by a regard for public opinion. Not Trujillo. He 
goes further he reserves the right to complete and absolute power, irre- 
spective of any law that may be passed by Congress. 

Let us not imply that "the Big One" is a man without morals. Quite 
the contrary. He feels a missionary urge to look down upon his subjects' 
behavior with a zeal sometimes verging on prudishness. The Benefactor 
adheres to the loftiest moral standards, provided they are to be observed 
by other people. Hence, he frowns upon somebody's else gambling, ex- 
cessive drinking, ostentation and even smoking (his aides cannot smoke 
in his presence) . He abhors "rock'n'roll" and has issued directives for all 
government employees to belong to Catholic associations. If virtue is 
measured by the absence of "minor" vices, Trujillo qualifies as a virtuous 
man. He does not smoke, play cards or shoot dice. Currently he does not 
get drunk frequently, yet his liking for the strong Carlos Primero is an 
ingrained part of Dominican folklore. 

Were further proofs needed of the divorce between words and actions 
within Trujillo's scheme of things, they could be provided by the words 
and actions of "the Chief and his close relatives. "How fortunate are those 
who go through life without ostentation," wrote Mrs. Maria Martinez de 
Trujillo in her Meditaciones Morales. While deep in her moral meditations 
the gracious lady probably did not realize the broad gap between her own 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 98 

exalted words and Trajillo's palaces (more than thirty in all), Trujillo's 
thirty-five automobiles, Trajillo's strings of race and polo horses, Tra- 
jillo's yachts, Trajillo's hundreds of uniforms, Trajillo's jewelry, Trujillo's 
lavish parties, and Trujillo's fabulous display of wealth. 

That the Benefactor is not bothered by his own inconsistencies is shown 
by the unparalleled ardor with which he prosecutes minor graft and cor- 
ruption among lesser officials of his Administration, whereas he remorse- 
lessly exacts a ten per cent rake-off from every contractor of public works. 
He frowns upon an Army officer owning a gasoline service station, whereas 
his big business ventures monopolize large sectors of Dominican trade and 
industry. Trujillo would throw in jail any Government official guilty of 
misappropriating public property, but he and the Government are so 
nearly one and the same that it is most difficult to estimate the extent of 
his own personal holdings. 

The Benefactor is also a very sensitive man when it comes to any criti- 
cism of his person. Upon learning of the mildest attack upon himself or 
his policies, he is always ready to cry out "libel!" Conversely, he feels 
no qualms about descending to the depths in defaming a fallen enemy. 

Although many of the aforementioned practices are part of the manipu- 
lation of the "big lie," which has become a necessary element of the power 
wielded by Trujillo, much is the product, as well, of "the Big One's" acute 
megalomania. The Generalissimo loves to play the role of World States- 
man. His ego is enhanced by the flattering accounts in the Dominican press 
of Ms alleged triumphs on the international stage. For instance, Spain's 
admission to the United Nations (the result of a world-wide package deal 
worked out by the great powers) was hailed by Dominican editorial writers 
as Trujillo's single-handed accomplishment. 

Trujillo, however, is not entirely fooled by his own propaganda. This 
explains his seemingly strange statement to Time that "if there can be said 
to be any tragedy in my destiny, it is that a man of my great capabilities 
has been required to waste them, in a sense, on such a small country." 

He has strongly denied he ever said this. In a public speech he said: 
"If I had been given the choice of being a famous conqueror in other lands 
or an obscure soldier working for the happiness of the country where I 
was born and which I love, I would have rejoiced in the opportunity to 
offer my life for the Dominican people." 




the principles of democracy and freedom cherished by human beings have 
been swept away in the Dominican Republic. Today there is no liberty in 
the sense in which Americans understand these words. In its place is a 
grim, all-pervading substitute: terror, under which arrest and imprison- 
ment without trial, exile, and death as well as Government-inflicted 
poverty and ever-dreaded starvation have been the fate of thousands of 
people whose only crime was reckless criticism of the ruling clique. 

Terror expresses itself in most varied forms in Trujilloland. It is patent 
in the institutionalized arbitrariness paired with unsurpassed ruthlessness 
prevailing in high government levels, as well as in the absence of the 
normal guarantees providing for proper enforcement of constitutional civil 
rights. It is in the methods of thought-control and brain-washing which 
characterize the educational system and guide the functioning of Domini- 
can communication media. It is also clear in the relentless effort to starve 
enemies and "indifferents" into ideological conformity. Moreover, it is 
evident in the all-penetrating activities of a multiple-branch secret police; 
in the refusal to permit any but fervid, safe trujillistas to leave the country; 
in the constant encouragement of spying and denunciation in all walks 
of life; in permanent large-scale witch hunts, arbitrary penal retributions, 
and the harshness of the places of confinement. 

In Trujillo's case, terror is not the work of a sadist or the product of 
unrestrained bloodthirst It is rather a grim means to achieve a pre-estab- 
lished end. It is the result of planning and organization aimed at keeping 
power at all costs. 

So imbedded in Trujillo's mind is the concept of terror as a prop of 
Government administration, despite the fact that the last vestige of all 
active internal opposition to the regime was finally wiped out during the 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 100 

late Forties, It has never been reduced in intensity. Under the conditions of 
quiet so much advertised by Dominican press agents, terror might seem 
a total anachronism. Nevertheless it is there, although nowadays it is 
used more as a prophylactic agent than as an instrument of suppression. 
Trajillo subscribes to the theory that a little insubordination may even- 
tually lead to a lot and, therefore, the flowers of liberty had better be cut 
while still in bud. 

After twenty-seven years of continued repression, terror no longer takes 
the bloody forms it did at the outset. More refined methods of punishment 
have evolved. Yet arbitrary arrests are still commonplace; and topping 
the list of chastisements is the relentless economic pressure that leaves 
whole families without means of livelihood many times in retaliation 
for actions committed by one of its members living on foreign soil. Thus, 
when this book was first announced, the Trujillo regime answered by ac- 
cusing the mother and the aunt of the author respected ladies of ad- 
vanced age of distributing communist propaganda. Thereupon a cam- 
paign of vilification began against the private school in which my mother 
was employed as a teacher, with the purpose of denying her a productive 

Today, as much as yesterday, a man arrested for actual or imaginary 
offenses may be shot or hanged (the rope is Trujillo's favorite method of 
execution) in a prison backyard. Kidnappings, murders and mysterious dis- 
appearances are as much part of the system of repression as they were in 
the early days of the regime. Cases of quiet disappearance are still com- 
mon, so common in fact that people have coined a graphic phrase to apply 
to a man who leaves his home never to return. They simply say: (t Se 
perdio" (he got lost), and everybody understands. 

Although nowadays for reasons of foreign public relations blood is not 
usually spilt in public, a few particular cases, called "examples," are some- 
times described in the press or otherwise made public knowledge. These 
"examples" are intended to keep the edge of terroristic weapons from be- 
coming blunt with disuse. As a rule they are executions of obscure indi- 
viduals, reported to the police for having talked too much while drinking 
or for being guilty of some other minor political sin. Nevertheless, the 
shape these "examples" take is repulsive. "A particularly grisly form of 
reminder," reported a reputable American magazine, "believed original 
with the Dominican Republic is that of the hanging body." 

Suppose, added the magazine story, an enemy of the Government in 
Barahona disappeared from his accustomed haunts. "The police know 
nothing, and nothing appears in any newspaper. The wise do not inquire 
too closely into his fate. But some days later inhabitants of San Pedro de 
Macoris or Samana, at the other end of the island, are shocked to see a 


body hanging in some sufficiently public place. There is no identification, 
of course, for no one in town has seen the person before." 

Occasionally people of high social standing meet death for disagreeing 
with the regime. This happens when the Government wants to set a par- 
ticularly pointed example. R. Donato Bencosme, a former provincial gov- 
ernor, is one of the recent cases. Formerly an opponent of the regime, 
Bencosme (a brother of the Dominican exile of the same name who was 
shot to death in New York in 1935 by a member of the Rubirosa family 
on orders from Trujillo) was persuaded to collaborate with the regime 
four years ago and appointed Governor of Espaillat Province. Late in 
1956, following a press campaign of invective and defamation against his 
person, Bencosme was demoted. He was tried for activities against the 
"public order," convicted, thrown in jail. On February 20, 1957, when 
everyone thought he was serving his prison term, it was reported in El 
Caribe and La Nation that Bencosme and his chauffeur had met death in 
an automobile crash. 

Understandably enough, the attitude of Dominican society toward these 
outrages is one of utter fright. Sometimes men, driven by desperation, 
sacrifice themselves committing heroic acts of protest against the un- 
bearable abuses of the authorities. Few, however, are ever brave or foolish 
enough to impair for idealistic reasons and principles the security and 
welfare of their children, parents and dear ones. Trujillo made this dis- 
covery early in his career and since then has exploited it for his own 
benefit. Economic and moral pressure brought to bear upon innocent third 
parties has become one of his most effective weapons. 

Knowing Trujillo's willingness to resort to ruthlessness with the weapons 
of terror at Ms disposal, Dominicans have learned never to discuss politics 
in public places, or in the presence of children, servants or strangers. 
Children are always chased away before any controversial political issue 
is discussed. In this connection I remember the unanswerable question put 
by a particularly bright Dominican youngster to his father. "Papa," he 
asked, "how come that when we talk of Trujillo in school we always cheer, 
whereas when you do it here at home it is always in a whisper?" 

When questioned about the Generalissimo himself, the people's attitude 
changes. With alacrity they will give an enthusiastic standard answer: 
each one will profess deep love for the Benefactor. Even the few who in 
the privacy of their homes dare to indulge in the most bitter criticism of 
the regime will act in public places as its most enthusiastic supporters. 

This uncritical support of the Trujillo regime in which foreigners 
sometimes join is hardly calculated to induce people to trust each other. 
In the light of what transpires in the public statements of loyalty printed 
by the Dominican press and distributed through the propaganda outlets 
of the regime, citizens have grown suspicious of everyone else and tend to 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 102 

look upon acquaintances, neighbors and outsiders as actual or potential 
agents of the dictatorship. Trujillo has been able to create a climate of 
suspicion and mutual distrust, highly convenient for his ends. 

Hallett of the Christian Science Monitor pointed out that those who have 
been in the country for some time in business or other fields of activity say 
they do not know whom they can trust. "Anybody may be a spy," he said. 
"Any foreigner here for some time finds that certain topics of conversation 
related to politics are taboo in talking with Dominicans." 

Dominicans now display a craven desire for personal security and finan- 
cial well-being, a readiness to conform and a willingness to delegate all 
decision to bureaucratic authority which is shocking. Civic responsibility 
is lacking altogether, and indifference and apathy are standard reactions 
to the most outrageous official abuses. "What is grave," wrote Jesus de 
Galfndez analyzing the situation, "are not the illegal arrests or even mur- 
ders; what is grave is the total destruction of the spirit of a nation." 

Yet, if the people fear Trujillo, the latter in turn betrays in his pro- 
cedures an acute dread of his repressed subjects. Not only is the Benefactor 
the most closely guarded ruler in the world, constantly surrounded by 
bodyguards and special troops, but he is constantly watching his closest 
associates. 1 The Benefactor coerces and intimidates even his dreaded 
henchmen. Duplicity, informing, forgery, blackmail, extortion, as well as 
all manner of weapons for psychological warfare, are among the preferred 
instruments of terror. People remain at liberty, conduct business, or hold 
government or private posts only as long as "the Big One" permits them. 

Repressive measures are not confined to enemies or alleged enemies of 
the regime. Not even devoted service saves those who somehow displease 
"the Chief." As a result, fear and anxiety are shared by all classes all 
the way from Cabinet Minister down to the lowliest peasant. There are in- 
numerable examples of men capriciously transferred overnight from a 
comfortable Cabinet berth to a bunk in jail. At one time or another "sub- 
versives" have been found in grocery stores, within the army, in govern- 
ment ministries, in newspaper offices, in the University, in factories, in 
trade unions, in social clubs in fact, everywhere except under the bed. 

Some of the examples defy credibility. A young newspaperman, Teofilo 
Guerrero del Rosario, reporter for La Nation and correspondent for the 
American magazine Vision and the Cuban publication Carteles, was con- 
demned to two years in prison in November 1956, for the crime of plot- 
ting with the Red movement. All that the prosecution's evidence proved 

1 George Beebe, Managing Editor of the Miami Herald, who interviewed Trujillo 
late in 1957 had this to say about this subject: "In a 15-minute wait at the palace, an 
assortment of guards and attaches came into the waiting room, and I could feel their 
searching eyes trying to detect any bulge of weapons that might be on my person." 


was that Guerrero "wanted to go to Puerto Rico" where he expected to 
find a better job with a newspaper. 

Government officials have lost their posts after being accused of having 
money in American banks. A Vice-Rector of the University lost his posi- 
tion when he was charged with having stated that graduates should be 
sent abroad for further study on the basis of academic standing rather 
than political reliability. An engineer, Emilio Montes de Oca, went to jail 
because his son, then living in Puerto Rico, spoke disrespectfully of the 
Generalissimo. Prior to his release, Montes de Oca had to publicly dis- 
avow his scion. 

It would be senseless to deny the effectiveness of Trujillo's terror. As 
one of the fundamental props of the regime it has been employed so suc- 
cessfully that Dominicans feel they cannot escape "the Big One." They 
know he is constantly watching them and they have no hope for an inde- 
pendent existence apart from the regime. Their hearts have been hardened 
and their characters softened so that they no longer have any will power. 

Everyone living in the Dominican Republic (nationals and foreigners 
alike) has a serial number. Upon reaching the age of sixteen, every resident 
must carry at all times a card called Cedula Personal de Identidad (Per- 
sonal Identification Card), which besides its number, includes the name, 
age, civil status, occupation, race, address, picture, fingerprints and other 
information about its possessor. 

A person needs the Cedula for practically every act of everyday life: 
to travel inside and outside the country; to get a driver's license; to cash a 
check; to apply for a marriage license; to register at the University; to 
appear in court either as counsel or as party; to practice a profession; to 
get and hold employment (employers who hire people without the card 
are subject to severe penalties); to vote; and to be buried. 

On election day the citizen takes his Cedula to the voting booth where 
it is stamped votado, meaning that the person has complied with his elec- 
toral duty. As Herbert Matthews observed, failure to vote is "tantamount 
to flaunting opposition to the Generalissimo." Since no one wants to be 
thus branded, Trujillo always gets a tremendous si (yes) for his one party 
ticket. Even Dominicans living abroad show up on election day at their 
respective embassies or consulates to stamp their Cedulas. Other people 
send telegrams from abroad to be on record as having been out of the 
country should someone question the lack of the electoral stamp on their 
cards. Questioned about the peculiar electoral system, Government offi- 
cials graciously explain that it should be copied by all democratic coun- 
tries it is impossible to commit electoral frauds, because no one can vote 
twice. Of course, they never say that those who fail to vote once are liable 
to visits by the secret police. 

Every year a stamp must be attached to the C&dula, showing that the 

TRUJBLLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 104 

bearer has paid his per-capita tax, which is a sort of rudimentary income 
tax. This tax, based on personal gross wealth plus monthly income, is 
figured on the basis of a cumbersome, highly unscientific method of com- 
putation. Taxpayers are divided into thirty-five categories for the purpose 
of assessing. The minimum a person must pay is $2 and the maximum 
may reach $15,000,000 a year. The Benefactor and his family, the mili- 
tary, and women with more than twelve children are exempt from this 
tax, but for other Dominicans not to have the current tax-stamp in their 
Cedulas is as bad as not to have the card. Penalties range from heavy fines 
to jail sentences up to five years. When a person passes away, relatives 
must show his stamped Cedula before a burial license may be issued. 

For almost as many purposes as the Cedula, Dominicans are required to 
present a secret police document known as the "certificate of good con- 
duct." Unlike the Cedula, however, the certificate (supposedly issued by 
the provincial governors) may be refused to those who are not persona 
grata to the Government. For instance, as a rule people with relatives, 
however distant, listed as enemies of the regime cannot qualify for pos- 
session of one of these documents unless they themselves are cooperating 
with the Government. This, in turn, means that the person is unable to 
travel out of the country, practice a profession, or even manage his own 

By Act of Congress the right of any citizen to practice his profession as 
a lawyer, physician, dentist, architect, engineer, chemist or pharmacist is 
subject to the unconditional judgment of the President of the Dominican 
Republic. Prior to the beginning of the practice of a profession, university 
graduates must apply for a Presidential exequatur. Upon receiving the 
application the President decides, after a thorough review of all factors 
concerned, political or otherwise, whether the candidate is acceptable or 
not. If a graduate is suspected of being either a "subversive" or not a good 
enough trujillista he may be barred altogether by the withholding of the 
exequatur or required to recant his "indifference" toward the regime. 

Due, however, to the fact that the exequatur is issued on a permanent 
basis, and may only be canceled after cumbersome public legal procedures, 
the regime resorts to this type of punishment in very few cases, and only 
when publicity is deemed wise either because of the personality of the 
culprit or the gravity of the situation. For routine punishment of pro- 
fessionals, a far simpler method has evolved. By another Act of Congress 
all professions now have their colegios, or professional associations, to 
which every university graduate must belong. The strictly controlled, 
powerful trujillista organizations issue each year, upon payment of a small 
fee, a card which authorizes the bearer to legally perform his work during 
the ensuing year. The card may be withheld by the colegio officials all 
handpicked Trujillo associates without any explanation. Sometimes they 


don't even bother to refuse the card its issuance Is merely delayed indefi- 
nitely. In the meantime, if the applicant tries to practice his profession he 
may be, and usually is, prosecuted. 

The defense of any alleged "subversive," even in a civil case, is suffi- 
cient to place a lawyer under suspicion and sometimes to bring about the 
end of Ms practice. Even in those cases where for reasons of his own 
Trujillo allows a court-appointed lawyer for the defense, attorneys as a 
rule cast themselves in the simple role of pleaders for mercy and show a 
marked inclination to avoid conflicts with the prosecution. There have 
been cases of over-cautious defense attorneys turned prosecutors. 

Furthermore, the system of licenses is not limited to the liberal profes- 
sions. To perform any business activity or trade; to act as agent or corre- 
spondent for a foreign publication, news agency or business firm; to sell 
insurance or to work as a traveling salesman, people must register with the 
Government. The authorities have no legal right to refuse registration, but 
the catch, of course, is that the procedures may be delayed at the will of 
the authorities, and the applicant is in no position to carry out his normal 
activities lest he be accused of illegal practices and thrown in jail. 

Moreover, no man who has suffered political imprisonment after being 
properly convicted by a Court may expect, after his release, to qualify for 
any business, trade or profession. He has to go through a long period of his 
life legally deprived of all civil rights. This means that he is absolutely 
disqualified from the exercise of any function in the State as well as any 
position of trust, authority or management in private business or industry. 
It is in effect a sentence of economic exile from society. 

Americans sometimes show disgust with the exaggerated loyalty checks 
and security measures through which federal government employees must 
go. They would certainly feel better if they knew what a prospective Do- 
minican Government employee has to do in order to secure a job. Almost 
all applicants for subordinate posts are required to fill out a form pre- 
pared in 1945 by the Comision Depuradora de Empleados Publicos 
(Commission for the Purging of Public Employees). This document 
a sworn affidavit of eternal loyalty to the Generalissimo is a masterpiece 
of totalitarian political thought-control. Its signers must give in it detailed 
explanations of their lives and the lives of their relatives, friends and ac- 

In addition to inquiries concerning the activities of relatives and ac- 
quaintances known to be opposed to the regime, the questionnaire presents 
the following questions; 

"What political work have you done? 

"Give details of your cooperation with the present government: 

"a) Political rallies attended? b) Political rallies not attended? c) 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 106 

Propaganda made in favor of the Government? d) How many non- 
political articles have you written? e) How many political articles? f) 
How many talks, lectures, and speeches have you delivered on themes 
of interest to the Government? g) What other manifestations of loyalty 
have you made? h) Do you punctually attend Te-Deums at patriotic 
festivities, politico-cultural ceremonies, meetings, agricultural reviews, 
committees and subcommittees of the Partido Dominicano?" 

Trujillo himself once sent a personal circular to all public employees 
asking them whether they had had "any conversation with persons who 
are enemies, opposed or indifferent to the Government." Then "the Big 
One" asked his servants what efforts had they made "to attract such 
individuals into our (trujfllista) ranks." Ominously enough, TrujUlo's letter 
ended by asking those who had not done any "attracting" the reasons 
why. However, not even compliance with these requests is enough to 
ensure permanence in a Government post. At frequent intervals, a thor- 
ough investigation is conducted by a high official with the title of Coordi- 
nador de Empleados (Coordinator of Employees). This official keeps 
a stern watch over the morals, politics and, sometimes, the efficiency of 
the Government labor force. 

To make sure that the objects of his benefactions won't stray from the 
path he has ordained, Trujillo has set up army check points every twenty- 
five miles on roads throughout the country. Against the chance that some- 
body might try to drive through them, huge bumps have been placed in 
the road before each one. It would practically be suicide to drive over 
them at any speed faster than a crawl. The C6dula must be displayed at 
every check point, and the driver must give his name, residence and 
destination point. 

The Dominican constitution guarantees, without any reservations what- 
soever, the safety and inviolability of the mail. As a routine matter, how- 
ever, practically all letters are opened in transit. This mail censorship 
permits the secret police to pry into the innermost lives of Dominican 
citizens, looking for the faintest hints of rebellion, non-conformism, or 
even dangerous thoughts. The secret police's overzealousness in this mat- 
ter sometimes carries them to ridiculous extremes. On one occasion a 
package of books was mailed to me from the United States and, as usual, 
its contents had to go through a routine inspection. One of the books was 
an English-language, anti-Communist treatise dealing with the relations 
between Church and State in the Soviet Union. Unable to read English 
the secret police agent in charge of censorship at the customs house de- 
cided that the word "communism" on the cover of the book was a good 
enough reason to warrant the impounding of the package. After hearing 
that my books had been seized, I called up the Chief of Police who, upon 


my simple explanation that the book was against, not for, communism, 
lifted the ban. Had I not at the time been a high Government official, and 
hence in a position to be listened to, I would have lost not only my books 
but perhaps even my liberty. 

Radio and telephonic communications are tightly controlled as well. 
Wire tapping is commonplace, and no Dominican will ever talk about any- 
thing more important than the weather over a telephone. Every morning 
Trujillo receives in Ms office a report on inter-urban and international tele- 
phone calls put through the day before. To check international radio and 
telephonic communications in the whole Caribbean area, the Dominican 
Army operates a superbly efficient monitor service. Also monitored are 
the contents of all Caribbean and United States short-wave radio news 
broadcasts, and Army stenographers make up bulletins to be circulated 
within a very exclusive group of Government dignitaries. Sometimes Tru- 
jillo himself picks up choice tidbits from these bulletins and sends them 
to the newspapers for publication. Secretly monitored telephone conversa- 
tions over the international frequencies are also reported in "confidential" 
bulletins to the Generalissimo, thus allowing him to keep abreast of inter- 
esting developments, political and otherwise, within his zone of influence. 
There is certainly no privacy in the Dominican Republic, or for that mat- 
ter in the entire Caribbean area. The Army is in charge of jamming all 
foreign broadcasting stations over whose microphones systematic anti- 
Trujillo campaigns are conducted. For years several radio stations were 
kept from the Dominican listeners entirely. 

Furthermore, peasants are tied to the land and ordinarily need a gov- 
ernment permit to move from one place to another or to change their per- 
manent places of residence. This system of near-bondage has been devised 
with the object of preserving within certain zones of the country much 
needed man-power required by the fast-expanding Trujillo sugar empire. 
Yet, if any tract of land, no matter its extent, is ever needed for the ex- 
pansion of the Generalissimo's sugar plantations, then the forced uproot- 
ing and transport of peasant communities is effected without a qualm. 
There exist estimates that several thousand people of all ages were evicted 
from their own land without any legal procedure whatsoever when the 
enormous Trujillo-owned Rio Haina sugar plantation was in process of 

In a manner reminiscent of Soviet decrees, the Dominican Govern- 
ment also prescribes what farmers should grow. Recently the tillage of 
cotton was declared of "high national interest" due to the fact that the 
Generalissimo had entered upon a large-scale textile operation. 

As already pointed out, Trujillo learned early from his Marine teachers 
that to succeed, a military regime must keep the population disarmed. 
Aside from a passport, the hardest thing to get in the Dominican Re- 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 108 

public is a permit to carry arms. This is only granted after a thorough 
check of the background, political reliability and associations of the ap- 
plicant. Then the gun must be bought from the National Army on pres- 
entation of a written authorization issued by the Secretary of Security. If 
by any chance the permit is revoked the gun must be returned to the Army 
without delay. Both the Army and the Department of Security keep 
complete records of guns' specifications as well as the identity of their 
owners. A yearly fee of $100 must be paid by the licensees. Legal penalties 
for carrying arms without a permit or for possessing them under the same 
conditions are severe, but usually people caught red-handed just dis- 

Some of Trujillo's directives border on the ludicrous. Heavy fines are 
imposed on those who smoke while riding in a car; every official docu- 
ment, including applications for passports and import-export licenses, has 
a line in which one must fill in the number and date of his affiliation in 
the Partido Dominicano; it is a punishable offense to wear khaki trousers 
and shirts of the same color and it is against the law to carry your coat 
over your arm. 

No photograph of the Generalissimo may be put on sale without its 
artistic merits being checked and approved by the Secretary of Education 
and Fine Arts. Toilets must be installed (and bought from the hardware 
monopoly controlled by the Trujillo family) even in thatched roof huts. 
Municipal ordinances subject festivities other than strictly family affairs to a 
$2 permit issued by the local police. Another law forbidding poor people 
to enter Ciudad Trujillo in bare feet has brought about, according to Time, a 
new form of business enterprise renting shoes at stalls just outside the city 
limits. "On the hottest afternoons, men wear jackets and ties in the streets 
of Ciudad Trujillo because El Jefe likes it that way," noted an American 

Why do people take all this without even passive resistance? There are 
many complex answers to this simple question. The truth is that inside 
the country no one seems to care for politics or how the country is run. 
Terror has produced such apathy that there are very few people with the 
moral or physical courage to risk life, fortune and relative security by 
open or covert rebellion or even independent political thinking. Even mild 
criticism of the regime is a one-way ticket to certain disgrace if not 
death and there are very few people willing to face that creeping, all- 
embracing (never seen but always felt) punishment called social ostracism. 

Trujillo has a talent for practical psychology. Thus, periods of intense 
repression are followed by strange lulls, during which nothing seems to 
happen within the country. "A policy of firmness does not exclude, how- 
ever, the use of generosity after any trouble has been ended," wrote official 
biographer Lawrence de Besault "When President Trujillo believes that 


there Is repentance and a desire to change on the part of the guilty, he 
uses the power of pardon granted him by the constitution of the Republic, 
and Ms arms open to welcome those who have been converted to the cause 
of justice." 

As with the change-of-pace of a baseball pitcher, these tactics allow 
Trujillo to keep his enemies and subjects off balance. This slackening of 
pressure not only lets off potentially dangerous steam but lures people 
into a false sense of security and brings about a "thank heavens, all is 
over" frame of mind. It arouses false hopes in those who otherwise might 
be driven by despair to frantic acts of rebellion. 

The amnesties, invitations to exiles to return home, pardons of political 
offenders, paroles, etc., not only serve a public relations purpose in making 
Trujillo appear as a forgiving man but also attain the more important end 
of inducing the people to believe that through good behavior they may 
stave off persecution. So Dominicans vie with each other in an effort to 
show loyalty to the regime and to bid for a safe place in the trujillista 
order of things. Even people who have been humiliated and unjustly 
punished by "the Big One" instead of rebelling would rather wait patiently 
for the forthcoming moment of pardon. "Only the corpses are without 
hope of being pardoned," says an expression that goes the rounds among 
collaborators and former collaborators of the regime. 

These periods of relative calm, during which offenses against the regime 
are forgiven and apparently forgotten, do not last long. After a while 
terror comes back in full swing, lest people become restless and start ask- 
ing for real freedom or get ideas that they can do things in their own ways. 
Terror Is for Trujillo a sort of straitjacket he cannot throw away perma- 
nently if he is going to stay on top. 

As a result of international pressures arising from the Galindez-Murphy 
affair, the country is now going through a new spell of terror. 



dictatorships, Trujillo has organized an efficient system of espionage. The 
Benefactor considers essential for the defense of his regime the knowledge 
of the opinions, intentions and actions of all residents of the Dominican 
Republic as well as Dominicans living abroad. During twenty-seven years 
of keeping tabs on enemies and potential enemies of the regime the differ- 
ent branches of the Dominican secret police have evolved into one of the 
most ruthless terroristic organizations in the Western Hemisphere. 

Millions are spent to maintain the operations of an espionage network. 
A vast assortment of agents, recruited from all walks of life (including 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 110 

reputable professionals, politicians and former FBI and Central Intelli- 
gence Agency operators as well as gangsters, criminals and hoodlums) 
work around the clock both inside the country and outside the limits of the 
Trujillo fief. Consequently, to date no other Latin American regime is so 
well informed as the Dominican dictatorship of the situation prevailing 
either within its own boundaries or in neighboring countries, including the 
United States. 

The role of the Dominican intelligence network has become known be- 
cause Trujillo and Ms associates seem to derive pleasure in boasting about 
it. The Dominican Republic is probably the only country in the world 
whose leaders do not feel any qualms about spying on other countries. 
Dominican newspapers have printed news about the return to the country 
of alleged secret agents operating in Cuba, Haiti, Guatemala and other 
countries. Trujillo and his aides brag about how much they know about 
everybody else and proclaim the supposedly excellent cooperation they lend 
to foreign law-enforcing agencies. The international news agencies* dis- 
patches filed in Ciudad Trujillo occasionally contain grave imputations 
against the heads of foreign Governments attributed to the Dominican 
Army Intelligence. At least once the reckless accusations provoked a grave 
international incident, which was investigated in 1954 by the Organization 
of American States upon request of the Costa Rican Government. The 
charges made by the Dominican espionage agency that President Jose 
Figures of Costa Rica had given haven to European Communists could 
not be substantiated before the international organization. 

Despite this and other setbacks the Dominican authorities persist in ad- 
vertising their undercover activities within other sovereign states. "The 
Dominican Republic admits to having an efficient intelligence system and 
has made available its information on the international Communist con- 
spiracy to the United States," asserted the present Dominican Ambassador 
in Washington, Manuel de Moya Alonzo, in answer to an interview given 
by the author of this book to the New York Times, in which was expressed 
the belief that Dominican Government agents had kidnapped and murdered 
Dr. Jesus de Galindez. 

Later Trujillo himself explained, in an interview in the New York Herald 
Tribune, September 8, 1957, that the Dominican Government had put in 
the hands of the United States State Department "much information" con- 
cerning the alleged existence of a "Caribbean Comintern" with its head- 
quarters in the Soviet Embassy in Mexico City and other "major Soviet 
bases" in New York City, Miami and Puerto Rico. 

A flagrant example of trujillista trespassing on the prerogatives of the 
investigative and law-enforcing agencies of other lands is the so-called 
private investigation of the Galindez disappearance, now being conducted 
with Dominican Government funds under the direction of the American 


attorney Morris Ernst. After refusing cooperation to the proper American 
authorities the Trujillo regime suddenly announced in July 1957 that 
It had retained a U.S. public-relations man, two U.S. lawyers, and a batch 
of former FBI and CIA agents, as well as other private dicks, for the 
avowed purpose of making a full-scale inquiry. 

That the "investigators" are doing more than looking into the Galindez 
affair was publicly revealed by Angel Ramos, publisher of El Mundo, the 
leading newspaper of Puerto Rico, and President of the Executive Com- 
mittee of the Inter American Press Association. Ramos announced during 
the meeting of the IAPA in Washington in October 1957 that the Execu- 
tive Committee of the Association had resolved not to intervene "in an 
investigation into the Galindez Affair which is being financed by General- 
issimo Trujillo." Ramos added that the office of Morris Ernst called the 
Secretary of the IAPA "requesting certain information which, in our opin- 
ion, has nothing to do with Galindez. The Committee was consulted by 
the administrator and agreed not to give any information to the investigator 
paid by Trujillo, believing that an investigation conducted at the request 
of Generalissimo Trujillo and financed by him might reach conclusions of 
a doubtful suspicious nature." 

Unfortunately, although the findings of the Dominican secret police are 
not always correct, the trujillista bragging about the existence of an enor- 
mous apparatus of espionage in and out of the country is not empty. Tru- 
jillo maintains what an American reporter has aptly called "one of the most 
tortuously conceived secret-service systems in the history of espionage." 

The Dominican secret service is not one but many agencies, completely 
separated one from the others, but all performing their duties with crush- 
ing ruthlessness if not always efficiency. The existence of this split-per- 
sonality secret police best illustrates "the Big One's" guiding principle of 
"Divide and Rule." Separated into at least six different branches, which 
check upon each other as much as they watch the rest of the people, the 
Dominican Gestapo keeps a vigilant eye upon the citizenry and brings 
swift punishment for the slightest deviation from trujillista discipline. 

Topmost in the Dominican espionage echelon is the brand-new Secretariat 
of State for Security, created by Trujillo July 1 , 1957. Appointed by the Ben- 
efactor as first Secretary of Security was Major General Arturo Rafael Espail- 
lat, 35, a Dominican citizen who graduated from West Point in 1 943. Between 
his graduation and 1956, Espaillat rose from first lieutenant to brigadier 
general and acquired within the country the dubious fame of being one of the 
toughest Trujillo henchmen. In May 1956 Espaillat left his post as 
Under Secretary of the Armed Forces and head of the War Department 
intelligence branch to become Consul General in New York City. A year 
later he scampered home after the U.S. State Department had sent a note 
to the Dominican Government asking that Espaillat waive diplomatic inr 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 112 

nninity "in order that he should be amenable to the usual and lawful 
procedures in matters of investigation and trial" in the United States. The 
unusual request was made after the State Department had officially an- 
nounced that it had sufficient evidence to indicate a link between the dis- 
appearance of Galindez and the American pilot, Gerald Lester Murphy. 

Back home Espaillat was promoted to Major General and assigned to 
the seemingly powerful job of head of Security. Then, with Espaillat's 
status settled, Trujillo got around to answering the U.S. State Department 
note. The Dominican note stated that it would be "improper" for a man 
of Espaillat's high station to face a judicial process in a foreign country. 

As head of Security, 1 Espaillat bosses an army of some 5,000 policemen 
and spies. He holds command over the national police, special police and 
the intelligence service at home and abroad, including the United States. 
He also has under his control the most dreaded of the so-called special 
services the "Spanish Police," a corps of about one hundred tough 
former Spanish secret-service men, well-trained in Nazi and Spanish 
methods of repression. This group has been operating in the Dominican 
Republic since the beginning of 1956 on a sort of "lend-lease" agreement 
with the Spanish Government of Generalissimo Franco. Also under the 
Department of Security are the "Veterans" and other strong-arm squads 
recruited from the ranks of ex-convicts, dishonorably discharged army 
personnel, slum hoodlums, countryside bully boys and parolees. Reasons 
for selecting persons with such backgrounds are found in Trujillo's con- 
viction that men with suspended convictions hanging over their heads are 
likely to prove willing tools of terror. 

The Secretary of Security is also in charge of all matters concerning the 
issuance of passports as well as the enforcement of immigration regula- 
tions. It was Major General Espaillat who handled with celerity the de- 
portation of the Jehovah's Witnesses after the sect was declared outside 
the law by Act of Congress in July 1957. 

Major General Espaillat is also endowed with power to enforce aU regu- 
lations concerning registry of foreign agents and companies, the expediting 
of arms permits, the "public vigilance of suspicious foreigners," surveil- 
lance of lucrative gambling operations, the application of the press law 
and newspaper censorship, and control of all organizations, meetings and 
public movements. The enforcement of security at international conferences 
held in the Dominican Republic is under Espaillat's jurisdiction as well. 

All embracing as his duties appear to be, Major General Espaillat does 
not hold a monopoly on spying. Vying with him and keeping an eye 
on his own activities are at least six other police organizations such as the 
Army Intelligence (to which are ascribed many of the discoveries of 

1 Espaillat was recently transferred from the Cabinet to the post of Inspector General 
of the Navy. 


"Communist" activities in foreign countries announced in press releases 
by the regime); the Naval Intelligence; the Inspectors of the Presidency 
(a small group responsible only to Trujillo whose cardinal task is to watch 
closely the activities of the high officials of the regime, including the heads 
of the other undercover agencies); the National Palace bodyguards (a 
counterpart of the American secret service, whose chief is the notorious 
former Consul General in Manhattan Felix W. Bernardino, who appears in 
public functions a step behind the Generalissimo), and last but not least 
the large corps of informers and inspectors of the Partido Dominicano. 

La 42 was disbanded a few years ago and its boss Miguel A. Paulino 
reintegrated in the Army with the rank of full colonel, but the "Veterans" 
a similar organization made up of former soldiers and officers the ma- 
jority of whom have been kicked out from the armed forces for common 
crimes act as executioners when the kangaroo courts of the secret police 
pass judgment on alleged opponents of the regime. 

For university students there is a special espionage service. Charged with 
this highly specialized chore is the Prefect's corps of the University. Under 
the leadership of a former prizefighter and graduate of La 42 the prefects 
keep tab on student activities, checking friendships (in and out of the 
university) , habits, hobbies and political leanings. 

By far the most conspicuous duty of the different Dominican security 
agencies is personal protection of the Generalissimo against would-be as- 
sassins and plotters. In their line of duty they consider every resident of the 
country a suspect and people live whatever their station under peren- 
nial surveillance. As a result, one of their normal functions is the detection, 
investigation and cataloguing of the political opinions of citizens as well as 
residents from other countries. 

Although all the police agencies act with a mailed fist, their techniques 
of investigation are not very sophisticated. They work upon the assumption 
that every man is actually or potentially "subversive" and rely for their in- 
formation upon material received from undercover agents, neighbors, serv- 
ants and personal enemies of the persons under investigation. 

Dominican detectives write down all sorts of gossip about what people 
supposedly said or what they were suspected of having done. Most of the 
carefully preserved information relates to personal habits and life, and 
when deemed convenient the contents of these dossiers are sifted for use 
in letters to the editors of the newspapers. 

All in all, the dossiers are the foundation for the police classification of 
people into two sweeping categories: "cooperators" (those who willingly 
collaborate with the regime) and "subversives." To be classified as a "sub- 
versive" a person does not have to be an open or even a covert enemy of 
the regime. Many of those included within this category are people who 
sincerely do not care for politics and might even turn out to be "coopera- 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 114 

tors" if they were given the chance. This arbitrary division of Dominicans 
into two different groups provides a clue for the seemingly strange remark 
made by a "pro-Trujillo Dominican" to Milton Bracker, correspondent for 
the New York Times, that about ten per cent of the country's population, or 
nearly 260,000 persons, should be reckoned as "subversives." 

In many instances the police classify a man as "subversive" to put 
pressure upon him and eventually force him into giving up a business or 
professional career and joining the ranks of active supporters of the regime. 
If this is the case, the longer an "indifferent" ( as the police call those who 
neither oppose the regime nor collaborate) holds out, the greater the in- 
conveniences he has to suffer. If he does not surrender within a reasonable 
time, his name is transferred to the list of "enemies of the situation." As all 
"enemies" are considered "communists," the real coloring of the political 
ideas of a man does not make much difference to the secret police. In their 
lists all "enemies" are Red. However, there is a further classification: there 
are "active" enemies and just plain enemies. The latter are allowed to live 
relatively in peace. To be sure, they are forbidden to travel abroad, prac- 
tice their professions or be seen in the company of foreigners, but they are 
not thrown in jail or killed, unless caught in an overt act of rebellion. Their 
plight is somewhat similar to that of the "untouchables" under the ancient 
caste system of India. As soon as a man is classified as an "enemy" the 
police quietly slip word to his friends and business associates of his new 
status. If by any improbable chance someone chooses to disregard the 
hint, the police lose no time in making plain on an "or else" basis that 
they would appreciate "friendly" cooperation in their dealings with the 
"enemy." Thereupon the marked man is fired from employment, dropped 
from business and professional firms, unobtrusively dropped from social 
clubs and subjected to whatever other measures of retaliation are sug- 
gested by the authorities. Almost identical procedure sometimes accom- 
panied by a splash of publicity is followed in cases involving Govern- 
ment officials cast out of the Benefactor's favor. 

The "active" enemies are worse off. Still, to be labeled "active" a man 
does not need to indulge in overt opposition. It is enough either to have 
been affiliated in the past, however loosely, with some opposition move- 
ment; to have been charged with persistent criticism of the regime or to 
have steadfastly rejected trujillista overtures for collaboration. People who 
have lost a close relative through any repressive action of the regime are 
always included within the "active" category, since there is the belief that 
they may become bitter and inimical forevermore. 

Whenever the regime considers it necessary to bring the populace to 
heel, so-called "examples" are drawn from the "active" group. In accord- 
ance with political winds or caprices of "the Big One," the "actives" travel 
back and forth from home to jail. If, after a reasonable number of jailings, 


they do not come out as vocal supporters of the regime the chances are 
that they will disappear, be "suicided," or meet a fatal road "accident." 

Strangely enough this is one of the most peculiar characteristics of the 
Trujillo regime the group of "active subversives" has proved to be one 
of the largest recruiting grounds of high Government officials. As a rule, 
members of this group have been at one time or another the brightest in- 
tellectual figures of the country, promising young men and prominent 
members of the old aristocratic classes. Through force, blackmail or bribe, 
Trujillo has successfully appealed to fear, hope of personal advancement or 
even baser instincts of human nature to recuit and rally around him 
the natural leaders of public thought. 

The lure of public office, after a brief visit to a jail, is sometimes power- 
ful enough to gain converts. Many of Trujillo's earliest close collaborators 
came to Government straight from the infamous Nigua prison. Famous 
among these is Dr. Manuel de Jesus Troncoso de la Concha, former op- 
ponent turned collaborator and elevated later to puppet President. On July 
23, 1930, Dr. Troncoso was arrested and arraigned for alleged violations 
of the Penal Code. He recanted and thereupon was released and appointed 
Rector of the University. "Then years later," points out Jesus de Galindez 
in his book, "Troncoso de la Concha will be President of the Republic." 

The Benefactor unquestionably derives special satisfaction in appoint- 
ing either ex-enemies or would-be opponents to his close circle of ad- 
visers. Doubtless Trujillo derives a sadistic pleasure in humiliating men 
of a certain character and dignity forced by the sheer weight of terror into 
collaboration and making them carry out publicly policies and directives 
they oppose at heart. Besides the Benefactor's sadistic impulses, this policy 
obeys practical considerations. It is Trajillo's belief that there is no better 
way of giving the coup de grace to a formerly stubborn opponent than to 
force him finally into close, open collaboration with the hated regime. 

Knowing that all men have weak spots, Trujillo seldom fails in his ef- 
forts to entice the people he wants on his side. He stops short of nothing, 
be it bribe, threats, blackmailing or cajoling. Finding an opponent's weak- 
nesses is just a matter of time, patience and careful investigation. 

The method, moreover, is not limited to the drafting of outstanding po- 
litical figures, professionals or businessmen. Whenever the dictator hears 
that a member of the younger generation shows exceptional talent or gives 
promise of becoming a man of prominence, the latter is approached with 
a tempting offer. Those who refuse to become sycophants are soon taught 
a bitter lesson by long imprisonment or continued persecution. Out of jail, 
they go jobless and see the best years of their lives wasted in what seems 
a fruitless, hopeless resistance. With the passing of time most of them give 
up and join the ranks of active supporters of a dictatorship they abhor. 
In this way the latent patriotism of Dominican youth is corrupted and, 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 

what is perhaps more tragic, the ideals of integrity, dignity, liberty and 
freedom become perverted. 

So effective has proved this method that there is hardly a man of social 
and economic standing in the country who has not lent his collaboration to 
the regime one way or the other. This, in turn, totally disables them for 
further activities as Trujillo opponents. Knowing this, the Dictator drops 
them after a tour of duty (whose length depends on the amount of adula- 
tory work performed) ; and totally discredited and destroyed as potential 
serious competitors, they are sent home to brood. 

The threat of publication of their statements and adulatory correspond- 
ence with the Benefactor (always carefully filed) keep the former oppo- 
nents turned trujillistas in check. In the few cases in which a man shows 
courage enough to reassert his temporarily lost ideals, the smashing propa- 
ganda machine of the Dictatorship is put to work against him. The cost 
of defiance is always tremendously high both morally and materially. If 
lucky enough to escape from Trujillo's reach, the man will find himself 
the subject of much scorn and vicious persecutions brought about by the 
hideous techniques of the Big Lie. 

In such cases the first step of Trujillo's propaganda is to turn the new 
enemy into a controversial figure. This is done through the printing of 
pamphlets and other derogatory literary efforts, the spreading of gossip, all 
sorts of accusations and rumors intended to discredit the opponent. Usu- 
ally, the breach with the regime is attributed to selfish motives of the 
former collaborator and his abandonment of the camp of trujillismo is 
sometimes ascribed to fear of legal procedures on account of disreputable 
activities such as embezzlement, graft, tax evasion, thievery and so forth. 
Somehow Trujillo manages to find a receptive audience for his charges 
and at times convinces people (especially those who ignore the facts of 
Dominican life) they should waste no sympathy on the object of his scorn. 

Trujillo usually gets his effects through the adroit exploitation of the 
facilities of international news agencies whose correspondents in Ciudad 
Trujillo are hand-picked newspaper editors or former journalists who will 
transmit the official releases as they receive them without daring to in- 
dulge in a dangerous check of their veracity. If the accused exile answers 
back and yesterday's story blows up, there are always new charges to bury 
the refutation. Without moral reservations "the Chief" allows his press 
agents to use arguments such as this: 

"Mr. So and So was an arrogant trujillista when on top. Why didn't he 
raise his voice then to denounce the regime? Why did he observe in silence 
the abuses he nows condemns? Now, after he has grabbed a lot of money 
and is running away from justice; now, after he and Trujillo have fallen 
out because of Ms treacherous unpatriotic conduct, is when Mr. So and So 


discovers that Trujillo Is a tyrant. How are you going to believe a man 
who just a few weeks ago was praising Trujillo?" 

TMs, of course, Is completely false, though the falsehood is hidden 
under seemingly irrefutable logic. The truth, however, is that neither this 
man nor any other Dominican could say otherwise while in Trajillo's grip. 
They have always known that Trujillo is a tyrant, but deprived of their 
right to say so within their own country, if they are going to preserve the 
security of relatives as well as that of associates and accomplish any good 
by remaining alive, they must wait for the relative safety of foreign soil 
to speak their minds. 

For domestic consumption, however, Trujillo does not dare to follow 
this approach. Inside the country people know enough not to be fooled by 
Ms propaganda. Furthermore, anyone accused of stealing money from 
Trujillo or of cheating him in any way Is regarded as a sort of hero, al- 
though people will not dare to proclaim it. To force people to turn their 
backs on former collaborators it suffices to publish in the newspapers an 
item stating that So and So has become a "traitor" and has gone back to 
the "communist party" where he belongs anyway. 

This name-calling mania has been carried to comic extremes. For in- 
stance, a University professor, Ing. Jose Ramon Baez Lopez Penha, was 
dismissed following the accusation that he had criticized in front of his 
students a new government rent tax. Prior to dismissal, a letter was planted 
in El Caribe calling the wealthy, conservative engineer (whose fortune had 
been made as a result of profitable government contracts) a Red. His 
alleged "communist leanings" were no obstacle to reinstatement, following 
an abject recantation. 

Regulated from morning until night, his opinions dictated by law, his 
movements and conversations watched, his employment often subject to 
the consent of the dictatorship, It is hardly surprising if anyone who dis- 
agrees with Trujillo's opinion of the benefits of his regime turns his eyes 
to other freer lands. During the early days scores of the ablest men emi- 
grated, but nowadays the right to exile is denied to most opponents. 

One of the most carefully controlled matters is issuance of passports to 
travel abroad. Any attempt to leave the country without a regular traveling 
document is severely punished. There are widely known cases of people 
who have lost their lives because someone else accused them of seeking 
a way to leave the country. Pedro Naar Rivero, a young newspaper re- 
porter employed by El Caribe, mysteriously disappeared in June 1954. It 
was later known that the police had picked up Naar after intercepting his 
correspondence applying for a post on a Cuban newspaper. The inquiries 
made by the management of El Caribe met with a bland statement by 
Anselnio Paulino, Trujillo's righthand man, that Naar had crossed the 
border and interned himself in Haiti. This never happened. 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 118 

The life of Dominican exiles, harassed by the long arm of the dictator- 
ship, is not easy, but despite its inconveniences there are men, many of 
them formerly prominent, who have risked the loss of wealth, comfort, 
family life and social standing rather than remain in, the country, their 
Bps sealed and their movements noted. One of the most inspiring examples 
of successful resistance to Trujillo's terror is provided by the case of one 
of the best-known Dominican criminal lawyers, Dr. Ricardo Roques Mar- 
tinez, now in exile in New York City, 

Dr. Roques' story has not been told yet in full and it may not be told 
since it would endanger the security of many people living in the country. 
This much may be said. In 1947, during the period immediately preceding 
the abortive invasion of Cayo Confites, Dr. Roques was engaged, as one 
of the underground leaders, in the organization of several cells of the forth- 
coming movement of internal resistance. Tipped ofi by one of Trujillo's 
secret agents, he learned that orders had been issued for his apprehension 
and murder. He promptly contacted the underground groups under his 
leadership and their members took him into hiding. 

During the next four years a long period of anxiety Roques lived with 
the secret police on his tail, moving from one place to another, many times 
using most extravagant disguises. During this seemingly endless period, 
Roques lived in at least seven different places; for several months he was 
restricted to the narrow space between a high wardrobe and a wall. Not 
once was be betrayed by the people in whose hands he put his own life. 

Finally, his friends spread the rumor that he had passed away and, sur- 
prisingly, TrujiUo believed it. Taking advantage of the fact that the police 
had relaxed their vigilance as a result of the death rumor, Roques' friends 
decided the time was ripe to smuggle him out of the country, a risky opera- 
tion they achieved by means that are still kept secret. After a long ordeal 
Roques reached a French Caribbean island at the end of 1951; from there 
he went to Costa Rica and finally to New York City where at present he is 
the representative of the anti-Trujillo party, Vanguardia Revolucionaria 

The remarkable feature of this story is that no one ever betrayed Roques. 
Many innocent people were tortured by the police during their frantic 
search of the revolutionary leaders. Many people knew Roques' where- 
abouts and some of them were imprisoned and tortured but they never ad- 
mitted any knowledge. Roques' former legal secretary, Abelardo Acevedo, 
was beaten to death by Army officers in the Ozama fortress. This time, 
however, they picked the wrong man, since Acevedo knew nothing about 
Ms employer's underground activities. 

The Roques story and its accompanying anecdotes of unselfish devo- 
tion to a cause by humble members of the working class will undoubt- 
edly make one of the fascinating chapters in the hitherto unknown history 


of Dominican "freedom fighters." This and other tales will disprove the 
baseless theory that Dominicans are a people without backbone. 

In 1954 the Benefactor forced through Congress a resolution denouncing 
the Inter American treaties on the Right of Asylum. Since then the Do- 
minican Republic is the only Latin American nation which does not recog- 
nize this imbedded principle of Inter American international law. 

Fear of the scrutiny of the secret police is not exclusively Dominican. 
Foreigners find it exceedingly trying to live in Trujilioland. A visitor may 
not be conscious of being followed as he is conscious, for example, in 
countries behind the Iron Curtain. However, a visitor soon realizes that the 
Government meant it when it charged General Espaillat with "public 
vigilance of suspicious foreigners." And any foreigner is considered "sus- 
picious" until proven otherwise. 

Surveillance, though very subtle, starts upon arrival. The immigration 
authorities have a long list of names of people not allowed under any cir- 
cumstances to visit the country. If the visitor's name is not on the list he 
will be warmly welcomed and let alone to do whatever he wants. The 
taxi he takes down to his hotel is nevertheless driven by a man whose 
duty is to report to the police any suspicious movement of Ms fares (in 
order to keep their union cards and consequently the right to work, chauf- 
feurs must perform as agents for the secret police) . 

Once in his hotel room the guest will be closely watched. His telephone 
will be tapped, his mail opened and a record of his appointments and vis- 
itors carefully made for the police. The chances are that he will not have 
a moment of privacy, though he probably won't know it> since there will 
not be hatchet-faced policemen around. The personnel of the hotel will 
be very nice, but almost without exception they work for the secret police, 
(Most maids, waiters, bartenders and doormen are British subjects from 
the West Indies who, being illegally in the country, are given the choice of 
becoming informers or deportation to their crowded islands.) 

Permanent residents of the country know however the extent of the 
surveillance and are always careful what they say and where they say it. 
Even diplomats consider it wise to discuss confidential matters outdoors. 
If further proof were needed that the eyes of the police do not make distinc- 
tions between nationals and non-nationals, the Dominican newspapers 
printed on September 28, 1956, an official notice advising all foreigners 
they should present themselves during the first four days of each calendar 
month to the nearest police precinct. They were asked to bring their identi- 
fication documents plus two photographs one profile, one front. A few 
days later the police reversed the order without explanations. The new 
advertisement simply said that the Security Service had provided them al- 
ready with all the needed information. 

Not even the Diplomatic Corps accredited in Ciudad Trujillo is exempt 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 120 

from the terror tactics of trujillismo. Diplomats are treated in almost the 
manner other people are and the regime applies to them as much pressure 
as to ordinary mortals. Even they "are expected to speak favorably of the 
Generalissimo," reported a correspondent for US. News & World Report. 

Herbert Matthews, veteran correspondent of the New York Times, 
pointed out that for the visitor, especially a newspaperman, "certain little 
things are immediately obvious or ascertainable." When your telephone at 
the Hotel Jaragua is picked up, he asserted, there is the unmistakable buzz 
that indicates that it is tapped. "It is known," he wrote, "that some of the 
rooms have microphones in the radio, and a newspaperman has to expect 
to be put into such a room. When he sits in the dining room or bar or 
any part of the hotel with a low ceiling, it is safer to talk in low voice." 

Matthews added and very correctly indeed that a guest of a hotel 
"may be positive that his mail and telegrams are censored. At the airport 
coming in, a search is made for newspapers and magazines containing 
derogatory references to the regime. Time, for instance, has been barred 
four times since December (1952 to March 1953)." 

Foreign corporations and individuals are not even free to hire their own 
employees. Under an Act of Congress every Dominican must get Govern- 
ment permission before working for a non-national employer. This law 
is double-edged. It, in effect, enables the Government to select a foreigner's 
employees even his housemaids. It also enables the regime to forbid em- 
ployment by foreigners of Dominicans who are out of favor, thus closing 
one of the few opportunities of livelihood left to blacklisted families. 

Small wonder that under such relentless pressure outsiders conduct them- 
selves in the country almost in the manner the helpless nationals do. As a 
result, the same wide gap of distrust that divides Dominicans separates 
foreigners from one another as well as from local society. Suspecting that 
outsiders are always either under Government surveillance or on the re- 
gime's pay-roll, ordinary Dominicans shun them, especially those who 
speak their own language. They know that if detected talking with someone 
who afterward may commit an indiscretion or make an unwelcome re- 
mark, they will be accountable to the police, whether it is their fault or 
not. Furthermore, they never know who might be an agent provocateur for 
Trujillo under the guise of an inquiring innocent tourist or newspaper- 
man. As Dominicans say, "en bocas cerrades no entran moscas" (Flies 
do not enter into closed mouths). This is what makes it so difficult for 
visiting newspapermen to assess the actual situation within the country. 
And so risky at times, it should be added, since the chances are that peo- 
ple will report to the police any political questions put to them. Milton 
Bracker of the New York Times reported that a question he asked a Do- 
minican journalist was known to Trujillo within twenty-four hours. 

In a country where guarantees against encroachment on legal rights are 


in practice void, there is little a man can do to look for redress. There is, 
to be sure, an elaborate judiciary, since the regime has taken pains to keep 
the external trappings of democratic rule. But the judiciary is a mockery 
and the judges are trusted hirelings. 

However, as Trujillo hates to let people know that he is not loved even 
by a handful of "subversives," political trials are not very frequent. Occa- 
sionally, someone is publicly tried as a "Communist" the preferred po- 
litical charge against critics of the regime but this is done to spotlight 
Trujillo's relentless effort to eradicate the "Red menace." The great ma- 
jority of political offenders are dealt with in other ways. Those who are 
not suppressed outright by the military or secret police are accused of 
rape, homosexuality, drug addiction, tax evasion, embezzlement, murder 
and other non-political acts. Thus, Trujillo can make good his claim that 
there are no political prisoners in Dominican jails. 

Anyway, inside a jail there is no difference between one kind of prisoners 
and the others all are brutally treated. Discipline in the jails is always 
harsh and cruel, although there are few known cases of physical torture 
of political inmates. This, however, is due to the fact that not many of the 
people thrown in jail are conspirators or possessors of information of any 
value. In the cases in which confessions are required the most brutal beat- 
ings are administered, as in July 1957 with the members of the religious 
sect, Jehovah's Witnesses. As a rule, however, the Benefactor kills rather 
than tortures. 

Yet, even without recourse to physical torment Trujillo's jails are grue- 
some enough to break the resistance of any prisoner. The shock of being 
torn from their families and placed in vermin-infested cells, usually with- 
out any knowledge of the charges, must obviously cause mental torture to 
any but the most callous. Threats of hanging and other grisly forms of 
death, as well as uncertainty about the fate of relatives and dear ones, is 
sometimes enough to accomplish Trujillo's desired end of assuring future 
collaboration from most of the "subversives." Those with enough will power 
to resist are soon converted, through undernourishment and overwork, into 
miserable ragamuffins. 


Court to answer for the crimes he has instigated, the charges would add up 
to an indictment so damning that even "the Big One" might well shrink 
from attempting a defense at the bar of international public opinion. 

No account of the terror tactics of the Dominican regime will ever be 
complete without mention of its chamber of horrors. Trujillo's list of mur- 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 122 

ders is endless. In a country where capital punishment was constitu- 
tionally abolished In 1924, executions have been perpetrated by the thou- 
sands. Yet their exact number will always be a matter of conjecture. The 
only one who knows TrujiUo himself since not even his executioners live 
long enough to tell tales doesn't do any talking. 

Intelligent propagandists for the regime stress that Trujillo is "mild" 
nowadays and that gone are the days when any enthusiastic trujillista could 
shoot without hesitation anyone suspected of opposition to "the Chief." 
It may be that open and brazen murders and other outrages that might 
rouse indignation abroad and keep tourist trade away have ceased to be 
performed. Nevertheless, every policeman, every soldier, every spy is 
still a law unto himself and Is authorized to deal arbitrarily and without 
fear of punishment with the rest of the population. La 42 has been os- 
tensibly licensed, but its remaining members (many have disappeared in 
the rough-and-tumble of twenty-seven years of terror) hold high command 
in the armed forces, important government posts and even diplomatic rep- 
resentations. Perhaps opponents of the regime are not beaten or murdered 
in the streets any longer they are simply removed from sight quietly. 

Not all the murders committed in latter days may be classified properly 
as political. Occasionally, repression has stemmed from baser motives than 
the heated passions of political controversy. Many an innocent person 
has been disposed of on account of greed and many a private feud has 
been settled in blood. It is a commonplace in the Dominican Republic that 
when Trujillo was rounding up the gigantic acreage for which he is now 
famous, the land he could not buy from legitimate owners, he acquired 
later from their defenseless widows. 

One of the most shocking cases of murder for greed was perpetrated in 
1947 on the persons of a couple of wealthy refugees, the Austrian Otto 
Smolensky and his wife, the Belgian Baroness Marie Louise Smolensky. 

The Smolenskys had been living in the Dominican Republic since 1937 
on a large farm called El Ranchito, located in the rich agricultural province 
of La Vega, In March 1947 La Nation reported that the bodies of 
Otto and Marie Louise had been found in the wreckage of their automo- 
bile at an isolated spot on the road between the city of La Vega and 
Ciudad Trujillo. No details of the causes of the accident or the circum- 
stances surrounding it were printed. After the scanty original news story 
the case was never mentioned by the press, despite the fact that the vic- 
tims were prominent in local social circles. 

It was, however, a matter of public record that on the day of his death 
Otto Smolensky had closed the last of a series of financial transactions 
intended to liquidate Ms holdings in the country, which he was leaving 
to take up residence elsewhere, presumably in the United States. On that 
date be sold El Ranchito to Virgilio Trujillo Molina, eldest of the Tra- 


jiilo brothers, and was paid with a certified check allegedly issued by a 
Cludad Trujillo bank. Upon signing the bill of sale and other documents, 
the couple had drawn a large amount of their own cash from their bank 
account in La Vega and with the Baroness's jewelry among thek luggage 
had set out for Ciudad Trajillo, where they were supposed to take a plane 
and fly out of the country. 

They never reached the capital city. A few hours after their departure 
from La Vega some motorist saw thek car at the bottom of a ravine and 
reported it to the police. Rescue parties found the bodies of the couple, 
but no mention was ever made either of the sums of money or the jewelry 
they were known to be carrying. 

Listed by the police as an "accident/* the matter was promptly put to 
rest. Dominicans, however, were not fooled by the police explanations 
the brief public mention of the "accident" fell into a too well-known pat- 
tern to pass unnoticed. Bit by bit, pieces of evidence were dug up and 
through the grapevine the real picture took form gradually. The truth 
is that when brother Arismendy "Petan" Trujillo Molina, another mem- 
ber of the Family, heard that the Smolenskys were going to take the road 
loaded with liquid assets, he quickly schemed to retain the loot in the 
country. Thereupon "Petan" sent for a group of hand-picked gunmen, 
headed by a trusted executioner, Jose Cepeda, and entrusted to them the 
job of intercepting and killing the travelers and robbing them. 

Although the hold-up was successfully carried out, Arismendy was not 
to enjoy the spoils. When the Benefactor heard of his effrontery, he 
summoned brother "Petan" and peremptorily ordered him to hand the 
plunder over. His conscience eased by this move of exalted justice, "the 
Big One" ordered the case closed. Thus, inquiries made by the heirs of 
the Smolensky fortune concerning thek legacy in the Dominican Republic 
failed to receive a satisfactory answer. No accounting was ever made of 
the inheritance. Nor, thus far, have diplomatic representations on behalf 
of the Smolensky family produced results. The case was the perfect double- 
play: Vkgilio Trujillo (whose check was never cashed) to Arismendy 
Trujillo to Rafael L. Trujillo. 

Sometimes it is not necessary to own property to get oneself disposed 
of. Just to know about an act of spoliation may be fatal. In 1945 Dr. 
Jorge Alejandro Nin, a young lawyer, perished, according to the news- 
papers, in a road "accident" while on his way to take the post of District 
Attorney of his home town of Barahona, Also reported dead in the same 
accident was the alleged chauffeur of the car, an aggressive leader of the 
Drivers Union whose intransigent nature was not agreeable to the au- 
thorities. Although known to few people at the time, two days before 
the published date of the "accident* * Nin had been arrested by secret police 
at the law office he shared with another lawyer now in exile in the United 

TRUJDLLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 124 

States. Only a few hours earlier Nin had confided to Ms colleague that 
he was deeply worried. A few days before the police had questioned Mm 
concerning accusations made by an informer. Nin had been charged with 
stating at a party that Tnijillo had robbed his father's salt mine in Barahona 
province. His appointment as District Attorney came after he had been 

Sometimes the lives of the intended victims are mercifully spared by 
the always "generous" Benefactor. Then they are only accused either of 
"communist activities" or of a common crime. Late in 1955 "the Big 
One" decided to build a polo field for his sons on someone else's prop- 
erty. Accordingly, he ordered the Government to expropriate the plot of 
ground for reasons of "social interest." Apparently dissatisfied with the 
Government assessment, the legal owners of the land dared to criticize it 
in front of third parties. Two of them, Enrique Apolinar Henriquez and 
his brother Abad, were promptly accused by the Dominican Attorney 
General of "communist activities." Later Enrique was brought to trial and 
sentenced to a jail term for the crime of having introduced into the country 
an expired ticket of the lottery of Puerto Rico. 

The recent attention paid by the American press to Trujillo's terror has 
forced certain changes in the tactics of the publicity-conscious Generalis- 
simo. He has become more cautious and sophisticated, and, as a result, 
an ever increasing number of political crimes are covered up under the 
mantle of accidents or suicides. Today the preferred method seems to be 
"suicide for remorse," whereby a prisoner after "confessing" guilt to a 
particular crime states in writing that he is giving up life voluntarily as 
a matter of self-punishment. 

One of the last instances of "suicide for remorse" with which I had to 
deal as editor of a Dominican newspaper was that of Goico Morel, ac- 
cused of killing a small merchant under grisly circumstances. Under the 
police third degree Goico finally confessed to murder. The next day, 
Goico, a nephew of Emilio Morel, one of Trujillo's early collaborators 
who later turned exile, was found hanging in Ms cell. According to the 
police, he left a note saying that because of remorse he had decided to 
dispose of his own life. The police, however, did not explain in this case, 
or in any other, why the only people with access to pen and paper in a 
Dominican jail are would-be suicides. 

A thorough examination of Dominican newspaper files will produce 
countless examples of news stories, released by the police, dealing with this 
type of punishment. So frequent, in fact, is this type of case that I finally 
ordered my subordinates at El Caribe to discontinue printing examples of 
them. They continued to be printed in La Nacion* 

One of the most peculiar cases of "political suicide" occurred late in 


1949. One morning the police announced that Dominican sailors had 
fished out of the muddy waters of the Ozama river, in Ciudad Trujillo, an 
automobile belonging to a young physician of American origin, Dr. En- 
rique Washington Lithgow. His body had been found inside the car. Fur- 
ther investigation, the police asserted, lent support to the theory of suicide. 

The truth, however, as ascertained by reputable Dominicans whose 
identity cannot be yet revealed, was the opposite. Lithgow, a civilian 
cancer specialist at the service of the military hospital, was under police 
investigation at the time of his death. He had been accused of confiding 
to someone who turned out to be in contact with the police that he had 
found out that Trujillo was suffering of cancer and had only two years to 

Even though inaccurate, Litfagow's diagnosis proved to be his personal 
undoing. Shortly after his conversation with his confidant he was picked up 
by secret police as he was leaving a private clinic where he worked. The 
police agents, who were waiting inside Ms car, drove him off for his last 
ride. Twelve hours later his body was recovered from the sticky bottom of 
the river. A strange footnote to this case was provided by the Dominican 
authorities themselves. Shortly thereafter they issued a certificate of death 
by "accident" at the request of interested parties, for the purposes of insur- 
ance payment. 

Not long afterward, on the morning of June 2, 1950, a track was found 
smashed and burning in a ravine at El Numero, on the coastal highway 
west of Ciudad Trujillo. In the charred wreckage were the bodies of five 
men and an old lady. The wreck was duly reported by Dominican news- 
papers as an "accident," and no details concerning an investigation were 
ever released by the National Police. 

Missing after the "accident" was the truck's owner, Porfirio "Prim" 
Ramirez Alcantara, commission merchant and brother of Trujillo's bitter 
foe and exile leader Miguel Angel Ramirez, oae of the military command- 
ers of the abortive revolutionary attempts of Cayo Confites and Luperoa. 

This "accident" might have remained an absolute mystery, had not the 
truck driver survived long enough to talk with a member of the Ramirez 
family. Juan Rosario, the driver, asserted that Ramirez' truck had set out 
the night before from Ciudad Trujillo to San Juan de la Maguana with a 
load of wheat. The driver was accompanied by Ramirez himself, an alter- 
nate driver and three helpers. At the last minute they took aboard another 
man and the old lady who asked for a lift. 

Four kilometers from the capital they made a routine stop for checking 
at a military post. A sergeant demanded that the truck convey six sol- 
diers to the bridge over the Nizao river, between Trujillo's home town of 
San Cristobal and Bani a few miles further west. Upon arrival at the 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 126 

bridge the track was surrounded by a group of Army officers and sol- 
diers headed by Lieutenant General Federico Fiallo. While the soldiers 
pointed their guns at the occupants, Fiallo asked them to step down. 

Ramirez was the first to jump out from the truck to inquire about the 
display of force. He was attacked with clubs, the surviving witness said. 
Apparently the soldiers were under orders not to use firearms, thus to be 
able later to simulate an accident. However, Ramirez put up strong re- 
sistance to his assailants* An abled-bodied six-footer, Ramirez knocked 
General Fiallo down and grabbed a club away from an officer, knock- 
ing down with it three other men (one allegedly died). General Fiallo 
who was back on his feet finally ordered the soldiers to open fire and 
Ramirez fell, his body riddled with bullets. 

Since the shooting had not only messed up the original plans of simulat- 
ing an accident, but had also been heard by people living in the neigh- 
borhood, the soldiers left Ramirez 9 body at one side of the road and hur- 
riedly took the other occupants of the truck to El Ntimero, an isolated 
spot farther down the road. There the innocent bystanders of the freshly 
committed crime were beaten to a pulp, drenched with gasoline and 
thrown back on the truck. After setting the vehicle on fire the soldiers 
dumped it into the ravine. 

Badly wounded, the driver Rosario somehow managed to pull him- 
self from the burning truck. After the soldiers left he crawled to the road 
and dragged himself several miles from the carnage. Finally he found a 
parked truck, whose driver, not knowing the nature of his "accident," 
agreed to take him to the nearest hospital in the city of Bani. There, 
Rosario lived long enough to tell the tale of the fateful night and, for- 
tunately enough, to a physician, brother of his employer, Dr. Victor 
Manuel Ramirez, who, advised by the professional grapevine, reached the 
hospital several steps ahead of the secret police. Rosario's life could not 
be saved. As soon as the police caught up with his sensational escape they 
appeared at the hospital and, though rather belatedly, they disposed of 
him right then and there. 

These were not the only victims of the mass murder. One of the as- 
sailants, a police sergeant named Alejandro Menendez, happened to be a 
friend of Dr. Ramirez. Bothered by conscience he went to see his friend 
and not only told the story of the night before but warned the doctor re- 
garding further attempts against the life of other members of the Ramirez 
family. Apparently as one of the participants in the crime the man was 
being closely watched by the police, because, upon return to his precinct, 
he was arrested. The same night his body was delivered to Mrs. Menendez. 
She was told that her husband had hanged himself with his own tie. 

Thereupon the whole Ramirez family took refuge in foreign embassies 
and eventually escaped from the country. With them they brought out the 


gruesome story, which Dominican exile organizations used to file an offi- 
cial protest with the United Nations. In the bill of particulars the Do- 
minican Army was charged with willfully ambushing and massacring Por- 
firio Ramirez and his companions, a fact the Government denied. 

As the exiles had asked a formal U.N. investigation on the ground 
that it was a violation of human rights, the Benefactor decided to play 
safe. He demoted General Fiallo and quietly made some of the lesser 
executioners disappear. Furthermore, he put his trusted aide at the dis- 
posal of the Attorney General for indictment, when and if necessary. 

Fiallo's disgrace did not last long. Soon Trujillo reassured himself that 
nothing would come out of the exile's protest to the United Nations and 
he appointed the former General to the Cabinet post of Secretary of 
Public Works. (Later Fiallo was restored to the Armed Forces with the 
rank of Colonel, Chief of the National Police.) 

These, nevertheless, are simply a few of an endless series of incidents. 
They are individual, isolated cases. This, however, does not mean that 
Trujillo is not capable of mass slaughter as well. 

One of the worst massacres of Dominican underground opponents took 
place in 1949 at the time of the abortive revolutionary attempt known as 
the Landing of Luperon. 

This revolutionary movement had been planned in close cooperation 
between a main exile organization and important sectors of the still partially 
organized underground. By means not yet clear, Trujillo managed to plant 
as a sort of liaison officer between the two plotting groups one of his 
stooges, the late Captain Antonio Jorge Estevez. 

Jorge, who a few months later was going to meet death in Cuba in a 
new attempt to perform espionage work for the Dominican Government, 
provided the Generalissimo with all manner of details about the forth- 
coming uprising. Knowing beforehand the revolutionists 3 plans, their pro- 
spective landing points, the strength of their forces and the identity and 
location of the internal resistance groups, all Trujillo had to do was sit 
and wait Airtight plans were made in advance to meet the forthcoming 
emergency and to ruthlessly suppress not only the invasion forces and 
their allies but also all groups and individuals who were on the lists of 
recalcitrant opponents of the regime. 

Upon hearing on the night of June 19, 1949, of the landing of a PBY 
plane with a revolutionary party on board in the coastal town of Luperon, 
Trujillo set in motion Ms machinery of repression throughout the country 
and in a matter of hours hundreds of political suspects, whether con- 
nected or not with the plot, were killed or imprisoned. Although the offi* 
rial communique about the happenings on that night of the long knives 
mentioned only the names of two civilian casualties Fernando Spignolio 
and Nando Suarez it is a well-established fact that in the opposition 

TRUIILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 128 

stronghold of Puerto Plata alone executions were counted by the hundred. 

Long after the revolutionary attempt had been crushed the secret police 
was still rounding up alleged plotters. The mass executions seemingly had 
the intended effect since it was years before any organized resistance to 
Trajillo was to break out again. Even the last reported attempt against 
Trajillo's dictatorship, in June 1956, is still a baffling mystery to discern- 
ing Dominicans. Although not a word was printed by the local press a 
news story leaked out through Dominican censorship to the effect that 
the Generalissimo had narrowly escaped assassination. According to these 
press reports which originated in Washington, a purported plot to blow 
up the Benefactor and his entourage during the inaugural ceremonies of 
the new Church of the city of Moca had been uncovered and had misfired 
at the eleventh hour. 

A bomb had been planted, it was asserted, in the Church which Tra- 
jillo was scheduled to visit. However, shortly before zero hour one of the 
plotters lost his nerve and tipped off the authorities. Several arrests were 
made and the bomb was quickly removed. 

To date the details of the plot remain mysterious but reliable Domini- 
can sources feel inclined to believe that the plot was conceived by Tru- 
jilo himself and hatched by Ms agents provocateurs in an effort to bring 
about a favorable climate for the ruthless suppression of the increasing 
number of discontents, who were getting too bold in their criticism of the 
rampant inflation and extravagant spending in the World Fair. In the 
manner typical of trujillismo right after the discovery of the plot a press 
campaign of insults was carried out against those whose names had been 
associated with the abortive attempt, particularly a youthful lawyer named 
Dr. Rafael Estevez Cabrera and other members of his family. Estevez was 
called a "professional thief" and "arsonist," and a letter to the editor of 
El Caribe bluntly accused his fiancee, a member of an aristocratic family 
from Santiago, of being pregnant as a result of illicit sex relations with 
the lawyer. Other members of the family were accused of murder and 
other common crimes. Thus far, all efforts to ascertain the whereabouts 
of the male members of the Estevez family have met with failure. 

Trujillo does not limit the application of terror to his own fellow citi- 
zens. "The Big One" has been responsible for the suppression of the lives 
of several citizens of the United States. Two Puerto Ricans have met death 
during the Era of Trujillo: Eduardo Colom y Piris and Juan N. Miranda. 

The best known of the two cases is that of Colom y Piris, since docu- 
ments pertaining to the investigation conducted under prodding of the 
U.S. State Department have been published in the collection of papers 
entitled Foreign Relations of the United States. This American national, 
then 18, was arrested April 29, 1933, in San Pedro de Macoris by Lieu- 
tenant Sindulfo Minaya Benavides, of the Dominican Army. The Puerto 


Rican youngster had been accused by a police spy of having spoken dis- 
respectfully of President Tmjffio. No one ever heard of him again, but 
according to an affidavit sworn by Ms mother (who visited prisons and 
government offices for many days in order to discover the fate of her son) 
the boy was shot on May 1, 1933. Puerto Rican press reports quoted 
Colom's mother as stating that appeals to the U.S. Consul in Santo 
Domingo brought only general assurances that her youngster was safe. 
The case, however, aroused such an intense public outcry in Puerto Rico 
that strong diplomatic pressure was exerted upon the Dominican Govern- 
ment in an effort to get a satisfactory explanation. 

Under pressure by the State Department the Dominican authorities 
finally came out with an explanation: Lieutenant Minaya, the alleged 
author of the murder, had been arrested and would be brought to trial 
soon. They, of course, denied all political implications but shortly after- 
ward informed the U.S. Legation in the Dominican capital city that 
Minaya had been shot "while attempting to escape" from the San Pedro 
de Macoris prison. The U.S. Government was by no means satisfied with 
the bland explanation and kept the heat on Trujillo until the Dominican 
Government agreed to assume responsibility for the crime and made a 
diplomatic settlement. Consequently the mother of the murdered boy re- 
ceived a $5,000 indemnity. 

Trujillo, on the other hand, got away with impunity in the case of Juan 
Miranda. The latter, a long-time resident of the country, where he was 
highly respected and had worked both as a teacher and a farmer, was 
murdered by a group of soldiers in his residence in Barahona province, 
shortly after the killing of Colom. Miranda's case did not arouse as much 
attention as the previous one, probably because the unfortunate professor 
did not have a living mother. No diplomatic representations were ever 
made that I know of, and the whole affair soon sank into total oblivion. 

A few years later the international character of the gangster-style op- 
erations of the Generalissimo was to be clearly underlined again by the 
cold-blooded assassination of an American clergyman: Reverend Charles 
Raymond Barnes, Minister of the principal Episcopal Church in the Do- 
minican Republic. 

An affable man, Barnes had performed his religious duties in the coun- 
try with charm and understanding, becoming in the process well-known 
and liked by Protestants and Catholics. He had converted Ms church, lo- 
cated on one of the main thoroughfares of the city, into a center of civic 
activities in a way the Trujillo regime has always frowned upon. 

On the morning of July 27, 1938, Barnes who as a bachelor lived 
alone in a house next door to the church was found dead, lying in a 
pool of blood, in the middle of his own bedroom. The discovery of the 
minister's body, shot and badly beaten, was made by his maid when she 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 130 

came to work. The crime caused consternation within Dominican society 
and a chill of horror struck the foreign colony. 

Without awaiting for a diplomatic representation, the Dominican au- 
thorities announced at once that they were opening a thorough "investi- 
gation." The Government solemnly asserted that the majesty of the law 
would be upheld and the culprits punished. Shortly afterward the alleged 
author of the crime was produced. According to the police reports he was 
the minister's house-boy, a Puerto Rican named Diaz. 

The police told the press that upon his arrest Diaz had confessed kill- 
ing the clergyman because the latter had made homosexual advances. 
Through the ensuing trial Diaz stuck to his story and the Court found 
Mm guilty of the charge of manslaughter and sentenced him to a prison 
term. Diaz was then sent to jail, never to be seen again. 

The real story behind Barnes's murder is one with sinister political 
overtones. It seems that Barnes had smuggled out of the country a few 
letters, addressed to friends and relatives in the United States, giving 
vivid accounts of the massacre of Haitian peasants ordered by the Gen- 
eralissimo a few months earlier. Inadvertently, Barnes sent part of his 
correspondence by way of the regular Dominican mail service. Intercepted 
by the trujillista postal offices the letters were turned over to the secret 
police. Upon reading the minister's mail, Trujillo ordered his military aides 
to bring Barnes to his presence at his country retreat of Hacienda Funda- 
d6n f in San Cristobal. 

What happened during the fateful interview only God and Trujillo 
know. Barnes, however, came out of the conference a condemned man. 
The details of Barnes's actual liquidation remain buried under a maze of 
contradictory versions which place the execution either on Trujillo's farm 
or in the victim's home. Also a mystery is the seemingly willing con- 
fession to the murder by the house-boy. The theory that Diaz was, in all 
likelihood, bribed with the offer of a large sum of money coupled with 
the promise of freedom within a reasonable length of time seems plausible. 
However, if that was the case, Diaz paid dearly for his foolish greed. 

The story of the Reverend Barnes did not end with the conviction of 
the Puerto Rican house-boy. Already shielded by the travesty of justice, 
the Dominican newspapers soon afterward showered upon the late clergy- 
man all manner of libelous accusations. 



Trujillo's George Washington Avenue was the scene of the most brilliant 
military pageant ever staged by the Dominican Armed Forces. Although 
announced as part of the program of festivities on the occasion of "little 
brother" Hector's second inauguration as President of the Dominican 
Republic, the parade of more than 30,000 men was really in honor of 
"big brother," the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, Generalis- 
simo Dr, Rafael L. Trujilio, who stole the show from his puppet. 

For three hours regulars and conscripts passed in review for the bene- 
fit of foreign diplomats and military attaches, distinguished visitors from 
other lands, high Dominican officials and a throng of several thousand 
citizens. From a couple of comfortable reviewing stands (one especially 
reserved for the Generalissimo and a handful of relatives and selected 
aides), the guests of honor admiringly observed the martial bearing of 
the trim soldiers and marines marching by with impeccable precision. 
Flattering comments followed the passing of the superbly trained infantry 
regiments; the tight chugging ranks of the motorcycle scouts; the mobile 
antiaircraft guns; the efficient transportation and communication units; the 
field artillery and the scores of lumbering tanks. A few miles off, deep in 
the restless Caribbean Sea, more than twenty units of the powerful Do- 
minican Navy maneuvered, while overhead the frightening drone of the 
potent engines of the British-made jet planes (Vampires) and other air- 
craft of the Air Force deafened the audience. A large part of the impres- 
sive array of equipment was American, inherited during and after the 
Second World War or bought from third parties. (Part of the American 
fighter planes were acquired from Sweden, and it was recently announced 
that the Dominican Government was closing a ten-million-dollar deal with 
Japan for the transfer of American Sabre Jets.) 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 132 

However, few of the foreigners watching this colorful, elaborate dis- 
play of force were aware that almost none of the erect, spruce draftees 
mingling with the well-trained, hardened professional soldiers knew how 
to fire the rifles they were carrying. Trujillo who likes to boast of an army 
of more than 100,000 men, does not dare to teach his soldiers to shoot. 
For Dominican conscripts (compulsory military service has been in force 
since 1947) basic training is limited to drilling. "The Chief knows that 
if it is necessary he can always complete the unfinished job of training his 
soldiers in a few weeks. "At any rate," a high ranking Army officer ex- 
plained to me, "we have enough combat-ready professional troops to hold 
down any front for a good many days." 

The tough, cunning Generalissimo was taught early by Ms Marine tu- 
tors that the most effective way to ensure absolute obedience is to take 
away from the people the means of attack. Trujillo carried the principle 
to its logical conclusion. In army garrisons outside the capital, for exam- 
ple, stocks of ammunitions are always kept low. Not only are draftees 
almost entirely ignorant about weapons, but civilians are not allowed to 
carry arms of any kind. Even high Government officials are not permitted 
to own a gun without special authorization. People sometimes "get lost" 
after being accused of illegal ownership of a pistol. 

Even though the conscripts exhibited by Trujillo in parades are not real 
soldiers, the regular armed forces are known to be strong enough to defeat 
singlehanded any combination of two other neighboring military forces. 
The Dominicans are so far ahead of their closest neighbor Haiti that there 
is hardly basis for comparison. Apart perhaps from Venezuela, the 
Dominican Republic has the best-trained, most powerful armed force in 
the Caribbean. 

The real strength of TrajiHo's military establishment is a closely 
guarded secret, but few doubt that if pressed Trujillo could make good his 
boast of putting 100,000 men on a war footing. Still, the best available 
data show a standing army of about 14,000 men. Another 60,000 have 
received a seventeen weeks course in basic military training. According 
to Nanita's biography of Trujillo, the "selective service carries on its rolls 
the names of 467,704 citizens (between the ages of eighteen and thirty- 
five) who freely volunteered to register." 

The comparatively huge size of the Dominican Army can hardly be 
related to any danger from outside. This extravagant military might would 
be of limited if any value in the event of a nuclear world war. Under the 
existing inter-American peace arrangements and safeguards against ag- 
gression it would be of doubtful value even for a localized conflict. Its 
major function as is the case with other Latin American armies is in- 
ternal rather than external. 

The Dominican Navy has a strength of 3,000 men and thirty-four com- 


bat and auxiliary vessels, including two former British Navy destroyers 
and several Canadian-built frigates and corvettes. The importance of Tru- 
jillo's naval power is brought into sharp focus by the fact that the Do- 
minican Navy is bigger than the Mexican and could easily overpower 
any other naval force in the area, with the exception of Venezuela's. This 
disturbing situation has not been overlooked by the United States. In order 
to restore at least a semblance of balance of military power in the region, 
America has been forced at times to encourage limited-scale armament 

Although himself an Army man, Trajillo has always shown a marked pre- 
dilection for the Navy. 'The Chief" seems to derive a particular satisfaction 
from playing the role of Admiral of the Fleet. As such he is frequently photo- 
graphed wearing a naval uniform. When some particular problem irks 
him, the Generalissimo takes to the sea and thoughtfully strolls on the 
bridge deck of the Angelita, once famous in American society columns 
as Mrs. Joseph Davies* Sea Cloud. There is also the presidential yacht 
Presldente Trujillo, a converted frigate, considered one of the most 
luxurious ships afloat. 

The sole glorious feat of the Dominican Navy is the capture of El 
Quetzal This ship, a former U.S. landing craft, set out on July 25, 1951, 
flying the Guatemalan flag, from the Cuban port of El Mariel with a 
cargo of avocado trees for Puerto Livingstone, Honduras. Four days later 
she entered the Dominican naval base of Las Calderas escorted by one of 
Trujillo's warships. 

For over three weeks nothing was heard of El Quetzal. Then hell broke 
loose. On August 24, the Cuban press front-paged a sensational story: 
Dominican warships in an unprecedented act of contemporary piracy 
had "captured" the ship in Cuban waters and her captain had been 
tortured to make him say that he had gone to the Dominican Republic 
voluntarily. Almost simultaneously the Dominican newspapers hailed 
with banner headlines an official statement reporting that Lieutenant 
Pedro Alfredo Brito Baez and First Machinist Nelson Alcides Brito 
Salomon had returned to the country and reported to serve in the Do- 
minican Navy, after completing a tour of duty as Trujillo's naval intelli- 
gence agents in Guatemala and Cuba. With them they brought El Quetzal 
in an effort to prevent her being used in "subversive activities" against 
the Dominican Republic. The other nine crew members (six Cubans, three 
Guatemalans) had been interned pending trial in Dominican courts. 

El Quetzal had a strange story. Bought in 1947 by Dominican revolu- 
tionists and baptized El Fantasma (The Phantom), she had, after several 
close escapes from American and Cuban authorities, taken part in the 
abortive invasion of the Dominican Republic from Cuba known as the 
"Cayo Confites affair." In the only naval action of that ill-fated revolu- 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 134 

tionary adventure, El Fantasma had intercepted and captured off the 
Cuban coast the Trujillo-owned sailing boat Angelita (not to be confused 
with the Generalissimo's yacht of the same name nor with a cargo ship 
mentioned at the time of Galindez' disappearance). When the Cuban 
army broke up the invasion before sailing off for Santo Domingo, El 
Quetzal was seized and subsequently taken to the naval base at El Mariel. 
Three years later she was returned to her legal owner, the exiled Domini- 
can leader Miguel Angel Ramirez. This devolution to Ramirez was a 
corollary of a Cuban-Dominican settlement, worked out through the media- 
tion of the U.S. Ambassador to Cuba, Robert Butler, whereby the Angelita 
went back to Trujiilo. After reconditioning his boat, Ramirez registered 
her under the Guatemalan flag and planned to start a shipping business. 
TrujiUo, however, held a personal grudge against this particular ship, be- 
cause of her previous activities. Tipped off by his Charge d'Affaires in 
Cuba, Dr. Felix W. Bernardino, about the date and itinerary of El Quet- 
zal's maiden voyage, the Benefactor saw an opportunity to even the score. 

While still in Cuban waters El Quetzal was met by a Dominican squad- 
ron, under the personal command of Admiral Cesar de Windt Lavandier, 
Chief of Staff of the Navy. The surprise operation was executed so quickly 
that Brito was captured without time to finish a radio message to the Cuban 
authorities, warning of the presence of Dominican warships. 

Lest someone should doubt the authenticity of their printed story, the 
Dominican authorities produced Lieutenant Brito at a local press con- 
ference. He appeared in a brand-new white uniform. I attended the con- 
ference as a correspondent for the Associated Press and International 
News Service and vividly recall him calm and poker-faced recounting 
how, having completed the secret mission entrusted to him by the Do- 
minican Navy, he had "voluntarily" decided to surrender the ship to Ms 
country's Navy. He also said that he had grown tired of serving "interna- 
tional communism," although the reasons for this apparent contradiction 
with Ms other statements were never explained. At the time Brito did not 
show signs of having suffered physical torture, but it is generally under- 
stood that, despite his seemingly candid statements to the contrary, he did 
not have any part in the betrayal of El Quetzal Obviously, after his cap- 
ture he was convinced that should he play ball with Trujiilo, Ms own life 
and the lives of numerous relatives held as hostages would be spared. 
Upon publication of Brito's story the Cuban newspapers changed their 
tune and bitterly accused him of having always been a secret agent sent 
to spy on Dominican exiles in Guatemala and Cuba. 

Whatever the truth is, the Cuban Government promptly instructed its 
diplomatic representative in Ciudad Trujiilo to intercede for the Cuban 
nationals. So did the Guatemalan regime through the Uruguayan Govern- 
ment, since normal diplomatic relations with the Dominican Republic 


had been interrupted a few years before. However., direct negotiations 
failed to produce results. The Cuban Government then decided to put the 
dispute up to the Inter American Peace Committee of the OAS. As it 
turned out, the Guatemalan Government of Jacobo Arbenz failed to press, 
for reasons not clear, the matter of the ship's illegal capture. Conse- 
quently the dispute was limited to the treatment and final disposal of the 
Cuban and Guatemalan nationals imprisoned by the Dominican Republic. 
What followed was a bitter, involved, inconclusive judicial wrangle. In 
the interim the Cuban Charge d' Affairs left his post in Ciudad Trujiflo 
and went home because, as officially reported in the Cuban press, Tru- 
jUlo gave him a thorough personal dressing down, studded with profanity 
and insulting remarks about the then President Carlos Prio Socarras. 

Meanwhile the Dominican courts were busy. First they condemned El 
Quetzal's crewmen, including the Britos, to thirty years in jail for sub- 
versive activities. However, the contradiction between the court's stand 
and the official version that secret agent Brito had turned over the ship 
of his own volition soon became a source of much embarrassment. There- 
upon a Court of Appeals reversed the original decision, acquitting the 
two Dominican sailors, who were also promoted in rank by the Navy. 
Finally Trujillo acceded to the release and deportation of the foreign 
crewmen. El Quetzal and the Britos were kept by the Benefactor. No one 
knows the whereabouts of the Britos, but it is very doubtful that even 
Trujillo could now produce them for another press conference. 

Today the most powerful and the youngest of the services is the 
Air Force, with more than one hundred combat and training planes, at 
least one-third of which are jets. A corps of some 3,000 elite troops, in- 
cluding motorized units, stationed ten miles outside the capital city, at the 
San Isidro base (considered one of the most complete and efficient bases 
in the Caribbean area) rounds out the offensive power of the Air Force. 

The impact of U.S. military aid may be plainly noticed in this branch 
of the services, trained and practically created by Americans as it is. Ever 
since the Dominican Republic entered into a Mutual Assistance Pact with 
the United States in 1953, Dominican Air Force personnel have been 
learning to fly, shoot, drill, and even think American-style, A team of 
American advisers has been close to the Dominican Air Force Chief of 
Staff, Lieutenant General Rafael L. Trujillo, Jr. So close, in fact, that 
there was a widespread supposition that Trujillo, Jr., had become a 
"captive" of his American counselors, at that time led by an aggressive 
U.S. Air Force Colonel named Samuel Hale. Moved by these rumors the 
Generalissimo stepped in and appointed an Acting Chief of Staff of the 
Air Force in May 1957. Young Rafael was shipped with the rank of 
Colonel to the United States to study at Fort Leavenworth, and Colonel 
Hale was quietly removed from his highly sensitive post; but American 

TRUJILLG: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 136 

influence is more marked in the Air Force than in any other branch of 
the service. The Army, for instance, is being trained by a group of 
Spanish officers who arrived in the country early in 1956. 1 

By treaty rights Trajillo does not have trouble getting arms from the 
United States, but he wishes, nevertheless, to be self-supporting in this 
matter. His five-million-dollar small arms and ammunition factory, 
Armeria E.N., assures a permanent source and leaves a surplus for export. 

The arms factory idea sprang from a diplomatic incident back in 1945, 
when Spruille Braden was Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for Latin 
American Affairs. On November 29, 1945, the Dominican Government, 
through its Ambassador in Washington, Emilio Garcia Godoy, asked the 
State Department for an export permit to obtain an exorbitant quantity 
of arms from Winchester. A month later, on December 28, 1945, Braden 
handed Garcia Godoy a note with an added aide-memoire. The latter 
made these points. It was impossible to see why the Dominican Govern- 
ment wanted so many arms unless it intended to use them against a 
neighbor or its own people. It was the policy of the United States to co- 
operate fully only with governments that were freely elected. Democracy 
did not exist in the Dominican Republic either in theory or in practice. 

Trajillo was taken aback by this complete about-face by the State De- 
partment, considering its usually nice behavior toward his government. 
Denied the right of lawfully buying arms in the United States, the Bene- 
factor resorted to smuggling. Soon the American authorities were on his 
tracks. In Augusta, Ga., Karl J. Eisenhardt and three others went on trial 
in Federal District Court, charged with the theft of machine guns from a 
United States Army depot in April of 1947. The FBI had also discovered 
that planes purchased by Eisenhardt from the War Assets Administration 
had turned up in Ciudad Trujillo without the required export licenses. 
Eisenhardt, who had been a special adviser to the United States Embassy 
in Venezuela during the war (he resigned under a cloud), told the court 
that the stolen machine guns had been bought and paid for with money 
"belonging to the Dominican Republic," for the purpose of "repelling 

In the meantime Presidents Eurico Gaspar Dutra, of Brazil, and Juan 
D. Peron, of Argentina, had extended a helping hand to their friend in 
need. In Brazil alone Trujillo bought seven million dollars' worth of am- 
munition and equipment. Alarmed by the size of such purchases, the 
left-of-center Government of Venezuela, then involved in a bitter feud 
with Trujillo, charged that these large quantities of military supplies were 
destined to further the ambitions of Venezuelan exiles gathered in the 
Dominican Republic. A formal note of protest was filed with the Brazilian 

*A significant fact is that after young Trujillo's removal, a group of Dominican 
air cadets have been sent to France to study. 


Foreign Minister, who promptly dismissed the whole issue with an un- 
convincing explanation. No heavy armaments were involved, a Brazilian 
Foreign Office spokesman said, and the weapons had been sold with the 
understanding that they were to be used only for internal police pur- 
poses. Though Venezuela was not convinced by this explanation, Trujillo 
retained Ms arms. 

The game went on endlessly, and It was a costly one. The stage was set 
when Alexander Kovacs, a mysterious Hungarian refugee, appeared in 
Ciudad Trujillo with a very appealing scheme. He offered Trujillo the 
establishment of an arms factory to manufacture, among other weapons, 
a light machine gun whose patent he controlled. No mean businessman 
himself, Trujillo immediately saw the immense possibilities of the proposi- 
tion. The factory was promptly erected in Trajillo's hometown San 
Cristobal. Kovacs and his beautiful, young platinum-blonde wife, Rose, 
became prominent members of official circles, lavishly honored by the 
Dictator with titles, medals and wealth. 

For almost three years the plant was operated by Hungarian and Italian 
technicians (recruited after careful screening by Kovacs himself) under 
the utmost secrecy, disguised as a "zipper factory." The common workers 
were Dominican soldiers. Local people in the know used to call it the 
"candy factory." 

Gradually the secret leaked out. The biggest bang occurred when a 
young Hungarian employee named Gyula Kemeny escaped in June 1950 
and took refuge in Cuba. Upon arrival in Havana he made grave charges 
against the Trujillo regime, which, he said, kept Italian and Hungarian 
workers under conditions reminiscent of those existing in the infamous 
labor camps of Siberia. He asked for an investigation by the United 
Nations agency dealing with refugees. 

According to Kemeny, the majority of the workers employed at the 
Armeria were being kept on the job against their will. Kemeny said: 
"They are prisoners because they cannot leave San Cristobal and cannot 
receive or send letters." 

Describing the plant, Kemeny said that some 800 or 1,000 light ma- 
chine guns were made each month under the Italian Bereta patent. Also 
some heavy machine guns were manufactured as weE as a large number 
of accessories for German Mauser rifles. He talked about impending plans 
to produce large quantities of rifles, since "one of Hungary's most famous 
inventors and manufacturers of rifles" had just arrived in Ciudad Tru- 
jillo. The Hungarian added that the plant had a German-made smelter 
and that at least part of its output was packed for mysterious shipments. 

Upon publication of Kemeny's story in the New York Times, the Do- 
minican government at once replied, charging the Hungarian with being 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 138 

a "communist spy" who had been "discharged from the arms factory for 
that reason." The arms factory was too solid a fact to be denied. 

Nowadays TrujUlo can buy all the arms that he wants from foreign 
sources, but he keeps the factory going anyway just in case. With the 
years the Armeria has become one of the most impressive show windows 
of Dominican military might, and a must for visiting American generals 
and admirals. The Hungarian and Italian technicians live under much bet- 
ter conditions, although complaints are not unheard of. Lately the Arme- 
ria has invaded the field of normal business, and gone into the manufacture 
of barbed-wire and air-conditioning equipment. Imports of barbed-wire 
were severely curtailed by official decree, and the purchase of such an ar- 
ticle in foreign countries was subject to licenses issued by Armeria's direc- 
tor, Major General Alexander Kovacs. The air-conditioning units are sold 
under the trade-mark of "The Benefactor/' These unorthodox activities 
have given rise to the question of ownership. Though this is not clearly 
established, the factory appears to be government-owned. At least its ex- 
penditures are listed in the Dominican government budget. 

How can a small and relatively poor country support such a military 
establishment? The answer is simple. From the outset the regime has dedi- 
cated the largest single item of its budget to military considerations. Their 
allowance has increased with the years, both in absolute amount and in 
relative importance. Of a total budget of $122,728,500 for 1956-57, the 
armed forces were allotted $28,685,110.87, or almost twenty-five per cent 
of the Government expenses. This sum does not include money set aside 
for the purchase of heavy military equipment, such as planes, ships and 
tanks. Such inventories are never published. Nor does it include the mil- 
Eon dollars which according to the well-informed Washington Post the 
Dominican Republic was scheduled to receive in military aid from the 
United States during the same fiscal year. 



the masses and the prosperity of the military caste is one of the distinctive 
features of the Dominican Republic under Trujillo. 

The military are the pampered children of the regime and no effort is 
spared to keep them happy and ready to hold down the people. They en- 
joy all kinds of economic benefits. Officers* pay is relatively good and, by 
hook or crook, the majority manage to become gentlemen farmers. Their 
homes are among the most luxurious in the capital and other important 
towns. Jobs are fairly secure, promotions rather swift,, prestige and power 
almost unlimited, and opportunities for graft are many and various. Many 


of the most lucrative offices in the Administration, such as the General 
Directorship of Customs, have been at one time or another in the hands 
of soldiers. As a result, the military have evolved into a sort of arrogant, 
contemptuous aristocracy. 

Creatures of Trajillo's creation, however, even the highest ranking 
officers, are not allowed to forget that they owe rank, social position, wealth 
and successful careers to the magnanimity of the Benefactor. They are not 
permitted to become influential in their own right or to form dangerous 
cliques. Every now and then, fearing Ms bully boys are becoming too 
big for their breeches, Trujillo shakes up the structure of command. After 
one of these clean-ups it is not at all unusual to see the former head of the 
Navy serving as chief of the police, or a former lieutenant general func- 
tioning as a colonel. About fifty per cent of the officers above the rank of 
colonel are either related to "the Chief by blood or marriage or are 
cronies from the old Constabulary, but, kin or no Mn, friend or no friend, 
Trujillo doesn't trust them very far, 

The military's standing as a class, however, has not always been so 
high in the Dominican Republic. Once upon a time, writes Abelardo R. 
Nanita, "being a soldier was like having the plague," The state of the 
Army was one of "perennial shoddiness, disorder, filth and chaos/* 

Sumner Welles writes in Naboth's Vineyard that the Dominican military 
forces had never merited public confidence, much less popular respect. 

Even Nanita admits that the "troops were recruited from among the 
dregs of society and were for the most part unemployed farm laborers, pro- 
fessional idlers, or village bullies without any education or social contacts 
with their fellownien, who had not yet acquired any habits of cleanliness 
and personal hygiene." 

This description shows well the conditions the American occupation au- 
thorities had to cope with when they began to organize a Constabulary, in 
preparation for an eventual withdrawal. To be sure, the Military Gov- 
ernment strove hard to eradicate the ancient Dominican idea of military 
duty. They sought to replace it with a new concept of the function of mil- 
itary forces. Along these new lines, great efforts were devoted to the crea- 
tion of a uonpartisan Constabulary, trained in the theory that It would be 
a corps solely concerned with the execution of the law and removed from 

In the process the Americans ran into unexpected, serious difficulties. 
Drafting privates was a relatively easy task, but it was found to be almost 
impossible to recruit officers. Due to a deep-rooted sense of pride and 
to a natural repugnance to collaborate with occupation forces educated 
Dominicans refused to join the Constabulary (Policia National Domini" 
cana). Only hardened thugs and slum hoodlums applied for induction. 

The elements of danger in such a situation soon showed themselves 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 140 

openly. The nonpartisan force envisaged by its creators failed to material- 
ize. Under the lenient eyes of President Horacio Vasquez, the American 
dream backfired badly. Three years after the Marines' withdrawal the well- 
trained, well-organized National Army they had left behind had fallen 
under the absolute control of an ambitious, unscrupulous officer, deter- 
mined to use the techniques learned during his period of training with the 
American forces as a means to satisfy a long-repressed hankering for un- 
restricted personal power. 

Lacking the deterrent of a long-established military tradition, Trujillo 
could easily develop the force into a docile agent of his boundless ambi- 
tion. Adroit manipulation of the commissioning of officers, as well as of 
promotions, allowed the General to pack army rosters with people en- 
tirely acceptable to him. Rigid internal discipline was enforced and officers 
were not permitted vacillations in their pledges of personal loyalty to Tru- 
jillo. The few officers who showed any independent strength of character 
were separated from the service. Yet, as long as their loyalty was unwaver- 
ing, the faithful were given security and protection, even to the point of 
protection from prosecution in cases of common crimes. 

A short time after Trujillo took over the presidency, he set out to assert 
the privileged position of the Armed Forces. The military were lavishly en- 
dowed with prerogatives tantamount to those of an occupation Army. Natu- 
rally, they became arrogant. Then and now soldiers are cocksure and cer- 
tain of the importance of the military caste. Even privates look down upon 
the entire civilian population as potential lawbreakers. When a soldier fights 
a civilian, the former is usually right. In the rare instances in which a sol- 
dier is tried for an oifense against a civilian he is always brought before 
sympathetic military jurisdiction. 

To stamp the seal of respectability upon his army, Trujillo induced in 
1931 a group of scions of aristocratic families to join as second lieutenants. 
It may be assumed that at the same time "the Chief" wanted to inflict one 
more humiliation upon the same people who, a couple of years before, had 
scorned Army officers, including Trujillo himself. 

TrujiUo's triumph over the aristocracy was short-lived this time. Forced 
to abandon their former style of living, the young socialites found them- 
selves unfitted for military careers and, one by one, left the Army within a 
short time. By 1956 only one of them was still in active service, Colonel 
Salvador Cobian Parra, and even Cobian was marked for oblivion. On 
November 1 of that year, the United Press belatedly reported from Ciudad 
Trujillo that Colonel Cobian (wrongly listed as still holding the job of 
Chief of Dominican Intelligence) and his civilian subaltern Andres Avelino 
Tejada "killed each other in a duel." The story added that the duel was 
fought, according to close associates of both men, "over personal mat- 
ters." The Dominican newspapers, however, never mentioned the alleged 


duel. In their October 28 Issues, both La Nacion and El Caribe printed 
the story of Colonel Cobian's death, "yesterday at midday," as if it was the 
result of natural causes. Reading the local press it is impossible to find even 
a passing reference to Mr. Tejada. For domestic purposes he did not 
exist. For the same reasons Cobian's funeral was an elaborate state affair 
with President Hector Trujillo and high government officials in attend- 
ance. Though absent, the Benefactor sent a tribute of flowers. Adding to 
the general confusion over the affair, Dominican newspapers had printed 
on the day of the Colonel's death the full text of a presidential decree, 
effective October 26, appointing the notorious "hatchet man," Lieutenant 
Colonel Cesar Augusto OBva Garcia, to be Cobian's successor in the post 
of National Security Chief. There the matter rested for months. 

Then, to deepen the mystery, the U.S. State Department, in a diplo- 
matic note addressed to the Dominican Foreign Office on March 12, 1957, 
pointed its finger towards Colonel Cobian. The Colonel, said the State De- 
partment, was one of the high Dominican officials with whom the Amer- 
ican flyer, Gerald Lester Murphy, had been very well acquainted, while 
Murphy was serving as a pilot of the Trujillo-owned Campania Dominicana 
de Aviation. All this has given rise to pointed questions, still unanswered 
and perhaps unanswerable: What did Cobian know about the Galfndez 
disappearance? What kind of connections did he have with Murphy? Why 
was he demoted first and then killed? Who was Tejada? 

A happier story, thus far, is that of another member of the group of 
draftees to which Cobian belonged. Porfirio Rubirosa took advantage of 
the opportunity to launch his remarkable career as an international lover. 
While serving in the Army, Rubirosa met and married Trujillo's daughter, 
skyrocketing himself into wealth and international intrigue. Since then 
Rubirosa has been very close to the Benefactor, as well as his son Rafael, 
enjoying privileges few Dominicans have ever dreamed of. 

Trujillo, however, did not lose hope of converting his unruly soldiery 
into a refined social elite. Throughout the years there has always been 
a heavy sprinkling of uniforms at official social events. Still, the Armed 
Forces officers apparently have not yet learned how to conduct them- 
selves in society. Five years ago, Trujillo's birthday party was an all-out 
military affair to which civilians were not invited. The National Palace was 
the scene of a brilliant formal ball, to which commissioned officers in full- 
dress uniforms took their beautifully gowned wives. Three days later El 
Caribe printed a story written at the National Palace stating that the 
distinguished guests of the Generalissimo had stripped the mansion of all 
its silver and table linen. "There you have the reason why civilians were 
not invited,'* the cynics commented. 

Endowed with special privileges, the military practically do as they 
please, provided, of course, they do not show political ambitions of their 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 142 

own. They do not recognize authority other than Trujillo's. Wherever 
there is a military commander, the civilian authorities are relegated to a 
subordinate role. Although forbidden by the Constitution to engage in 
partisan politics (they are barred from the voting booths) army officers 
are always photographed presiding at political rallies and other ceremonies 
organized by the Dominican Party. 

Finding the doors of political aggrandizement closed, at least for the 
tune being, smart officers usually employ their energies to achieve easy 
financial advancement. Graft is widespread. Officers' salaries, though not 
low by Dominican standards, are supplemented by other sources of income, 
especially "gratuities" from private citizens interested in furthering illegal 
schemes. There are influential posts of command that can be used to shake 
down businessmen and exact tribute from them. Up to the time Trujillo 
himself took control over the whole industry, these posts were mainly lo- 
cated in the vicinity of sugar mills. The managers of the American sugar 
properties used to pay army officers what was called an iguala or monthly 
fee, in return for "labor peace," protection against certain governmental 
inconveniences and other significant favors such as "bumping off" po- 
tential trouble makers! Short of fixing taxes (the only thing Trujillo does 
not allow anyone to tinker with) there is practically nothing the "sweep- 
ing boys/* as the military men are privately called, cannot do for their 
proteges. The amount of the fgualas collected by these self-styled indus- 
trial peacemakers goes from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, ac- 
cording to the kind of services rendered. 

"Protection" for gambling establishments and houses of ill-repute makes 
up, outside Ciudad Trujillo, another sizable source of income for com- 
manding officers. In the capital, "protection" is monopolized by one mem- 
ber of the family: Captain Romeo "Pipi" Trujillo Molina. Gambling, 
though illegal save for the National Lottery and a few chartered casinos 
is allowed to thrive for the benefit of the military class. 

Trujillo and his family find in the Armed Forces still another supple- 
mentary source of income. They employ Army personnel, not only on 
guard duties in their homes, farms and other properties, but also for menial 
labor* Army enlisted men drive the trucks (sometimes Army property) at 
the sugar plantations owned by Trujillo. Soldiers take care of the cattle 
herds and stables at Hacienda Fundacion and other farms of Trujillo's. 
Free Army driving is provided for all the Trujillos and no house is ever 
built by them without the help of the Army's Corps of Engineers. 

The most coveted post in the Armed Forces is that of Quartermaster 
General. Two years at this post that is the usual time allowed to each 
officer is enough to make its holder rich, even after splitting the spoils 
with President Hector Trujillo. (According to reliable information and 
my own private experience ten per cent of every Armed Forces finan- 


cial transaction must be set apart for brother Hector. When El Caribe 
bought, in June 1955, a folding machine from the Army printing shop, I 
had to pay ten per cent in advance. The Quartermaster General graciously 
declined his share as a token of friendship.) 

A letter printed in El Caribe on January 3, 1956, gives an idea of the 
magnitude of this graft operation. The letter, never answered or denied in 
any manner, charged former Colonel Perdomo with stealing $2,000,000 
while serving as Quartermaster General. Cited as source of the informa- 
tion was one who should know a former Quartermaster General Brig- 
adier General Maximo ("Mozo") Bonetti Burgos. 

Theoretically, the military are forbidden to engage in business activities 
while on duty, but many officers are active partners or shareholders in 
profitable business ventures. Their favorite fields of investment are real 
estate, service stations, transportation, and farming. The last is consid- 
ered the most suitable investment, since the officers can always count on 
using convicted criminals as farm-hands. Ironically enough, this sort of 
modem slavery is highly regarded by its victims. Convicts like to be sent to 
the officers' farms as presets de comfianza (trusties), for there at least they 
have the chance of getting nourishing food. (It is known that out of the 
twenty cents a day normally allowed by the Government for a prisoner's 
food, Pedro V. Trujillo Molina receives an eight-cent cut. There is also, of 
course, the cut the officer directly in charge of the jail takes.) 

No business deal is too small for the top brass. The current Chief of 
Staff of the Navy, Rear Admiral Rafael B. Richardson, was once tem- 
porarily dismissed from service after being publicly charged with selling 
Navy footgear to civilians. 

Why does such a supposedly rigid disciplinarian as Trujillo condone 
these corrupt practices? Or ? at least, why has such a great monopolizer 
not monopolized graft for himself? 

Aside from the fact that he oace engaged in such endeavors and still 
does occasionally Trujillo finds them highly convenient as a means of 
keeping, under threat of punishment, guilty officers tied to his regime. 
Trujillo's careful study of the character and behavior of his underlings 
has convinced him of the urgency of maintaining on the statute books the 
prohibition against engaging in business ventures. Whenever an officer 
falls into disgrace, "the Chief * unearths his subaltern's crimes and lets the 
sword of the law descend upon the head of the guilty one. Though pos- 
sibly belated, the punishment is usually lethal. 

In March 1956 Dominican courts gave a thirty years' stretch at La 
Victoria to a former army major named Segundo Manuel Imbert, who 
only a few years before had been riding high in the northern part of the 
country as Trujillo's favorite trigger boy. Imbert had been indicted, along 
with a group o{ "veterans," for the murder, nine years before, of a minor 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 144 

leader of the Sugar Workers Union. Although his co-defendants pleaded 
guilty to the charges and the depositions of a long array of witnesses for 
the prosecution provided damaging evidence against Mm, Imbert, with 
contemptuous detachment, denied the crime. Luis Espinosa (the hanged 
union leader) he said had committed suicide. But, murder or suicide, the 
case, as unfolded in court, told an almost unbelievable tale of collusion 
between law-enforcing officers and the otherwise respectable officers of a 
large private corporation to block a $100,000 claim Espinosa was pressing, 
on behalf of the sugar workers, against the then American-owned Cen- 
tral Montellano. It was not explained during the trial why, with so much 
evidence against the culprits, the authorities waited so long to act. 

The security of Trujillo's regime must rest on some mass-power factor 
if not a highly specialized political police force or parliamentary organi- 
zation, then the armed services in general. Being a military man Trujillo 
has chosen the latter, though not completely discarding the other alterna- 
tive. Making the military the instrument of his terror was facilitated by 
the fact that, as an inheritance from the Constabulary, the Dominican 
Armed Forces are legally empowered with police duties and are con- 
sidered both the guardians of external sovereignty and of internal order. 
(This explains why officers always carry side arms, even when off-duty, a 
thing that strikes foreigners as an unnecessary display of force.) 

From the outset of the regime Army officers have been guilty of the ma- 
jority of the political crimes committed against Trujillo's foes. The present 
top brass is almost fully made up of notorious hatchet-men whom the 
people identify with murder, thuggery and corruption. The Army as a 
whole bears part of the responsibility for the horrible massacre of 15,000 
Haitian peasants in October 1937, as well as for less well-known atroc- 
ities against the Dominican people. 

Soldiers, however, can derive other pleasures from their careers than 
MUing political opponents. For instance, those officers who like to travel 
can always get assignments to missions abroad. Sometimes, the post of 
military attache is used as a sort of gilded exile for officers in disgrace. 
(Until July 1957, Captain Homero Lajara Burgos, a former Rear-Admiral 
and Chief of Staff of the Navy, served as Dominican Naval Attache in 
Washington. Lajara's habit of writing home about matters in general over 
the Ambassador's head did presumably finally cost him his sinecure.) 

Ever since he succeeded in grabbing power, "the Chief" has been ap- 
prehensive that somewhere in his military set-up there is a latter-day 
Rafael ready to do to him what he did to Vasquez. For this reason he is 
continually pulling the carpet out from under Ms subordinates. Under 
Trujillo's stern eye constant reshuffles make certain that no one will ever 
have enough influence to build a following of his own. 

Military officers fear as much as civilians the letters to the editor 


section of El Caribe. Following the appearance of such letters, usually 
charging officers with improper conduct and behavior unbecoming to 
their lofty status, "investigations** are opened and as a rale the accused 
ones are acquitted by their fellow officers. Occasionally, however, some 
officer marked for punishment is dismissed under a cloud. The action is 
announced in pompously worded communiques from the Defense Depart- 
ment. Invariably, the alleged culprit is back in uniform a short time later. 
(It is considered dangerous to keep these characters unemployed for long 
periods.) This method of punishing now and forgiving later is another of 
the Machiavellian devices used in keeping the people off-balance. Knowing 
that at any moment the Benefactor can throw the crumbs of forgiveness 
in their direction, the chastised officers and officials patiently wait the 
moment of pardon. Their will-power broken, they have no alternative but 
to wait in abject submission. 

One can repress but not entirely suppress human ambitions. Whatever 
his other accomplishments, Trajillo has not yet found a way to uproot such 
human frailties as greed and longing for power. Several times "the Chief 
has been forced to ruthlessly suppress movements, even conspiracies, di- 
rected against him from within the Armed Forces. Luckily for Mm, for 
one reason or another, none of these plots has ever advanced beyond the 
preparatory stage. On each occasion, punishment has been administered 
quickly and without mercy. There have been cases of civilian conspira- 
tors even participants in plots to kill the Generalissimo whose lives 
"the Chief* spared for reasons of his own. Equal clemency has never been 
shown to members of the Armed Forces. 

Even though always ending in disaster, the list of military plots is im- 
pressive. Among the earlier military conspiracies, and perhaps the best 
known of them all, was the one led by Colonel Leoncio Blanco. This man, 
a perfect specimen of the hoodlum-officer of the old Policia National 
Dominicana, had caught Trujillo's eye for his bravery, ruthlessness and 
cruelty. Promotions were fast for Blanco and soon after Trujillo took 
power the Colonel was assigned as military commander of the wealthy 
Barahona Province near the Haitian border. The post assures control over 
the lucrative gambling operations in the region's vast sugar plantations. 
A seemingly inexhaustible flow of money came in those days from the 
smuggling of Haitian laborers across the border. (American sugar mill 
operators paid ten dollars, to be divided between Trujillo and Blanco, for 
each one of the several thousand sugar cane cutters illegally brought into 
the country every year at harvest season.) Merely a sideline for Blanco 
was the income from the contraband of large quantities of highly-prized 
Haitian rum. 

What happened next is not clear, but after a brief visit to Barahona in 
1933, Trujillo suddenly had Colonel Blanco relieved of his post, trans- 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 146 

ferring Mm to a subordinate position at the Ozama fort in the capital, 
There, it was thought, the Colonel could be closely watched. Whether 
Blanco was already plotting when Trujillo demoted him, or whether his 
disgrace was due to Trujillo's jealousy upon hearing some shouts of 
"Long live Colonel Blanco" during Ms visit to Barahona, is part of the 
mystery. In any event, late in that same year rumors started along the 
grapevine that Colonel Blanco, Brigadier General Ramon Vasquez Rivera, 
a former Chief of Staff of the Army, and other officers had been placed 
under arrest. 

Apparently, only by sheer luck had TrajMIo discovered in time a well- 
organized plot against his life, headed by his former favorite, Leoncio 
Blanco. The Colonel, it seems, had the setting all ready for a daring coup. 
He had enlisted the help of a large group of Army officers, all of whom 
proved faithful to their pledges to the bitter end. However, despite all 
the precautions and safeguards, a fatal mistake was made by none other 
than Blanco himself. Fearful that Trujillo might escape on his personal 
yacht, Blanco conceived the idea of winning Captain Andres Julio Monclus, 
the ship's commander, to Ms side. After listening to the Colonel, MoncMs 
agreed to lend a hand but only in case Trujillo took refuge on his yacht. 
Ten minutes later Colonel Federico Hallo (one of the most dreaded of 
Trajillo's henchmen) came to the yacht looking for Blanco in a hurry. 
Thinking the plot had been discovered and that Fiallo was seeking Blanco 
to arrest him, Monclus' nerves failed and, without being asked, he spilled 
the beans. Though Ms interest in Blanco at the moment was for quite a 
different reason, Fiallo took Monclus with Mm and both tattled to Tru- 
jillo. "The Chief swiftly closed in. 

Within minutes Blanco was thrown in jail and subsequently murdered. 
General Vasquez Rivera, who seemingly was not an active participant in 
the plot (though he had heard about it and did not report it), was spared 
this time. Separated from the service, Vasquez was sentenced to five years 
in jail, then pardoned and sent out of the country as Consul General in 
Bordeaux, France. Recalled later, he was imprisoned, and in 1940 it was 
announced that he had committed suicide in his cell at Ozama fortress. 
The other officers implicated in Blanco's conspiracy were shot, with the 
exception of Rafael L. Trujillo Martinez's godfather, Major Anibal Val- 
lejo, at that time Chief of Staff of the new Air Force. Though badly tor- 
tured Vallejo was magnanimously pardoned by the Benefactor and re- 
leased from prison. Later he was named to a position in the Public Works 
Department as Inspector of Roads Construction. One day it was an- 
nounced that the former Major had met death at the hands of a group 
of Haitian squatters, during one of his inspection tours near the border. 
Then the long hand of the Generalissimo reached out for practically every 
member of the Vallejo family, who were shot or stabbed to death within 


a short period. To AnibaFs widow he gave a job in the Labor Depart- 

For aH practical purposes Blanco's plot is the biggest military "inside 
job" Trujillo has had to cope with, but one that was far more significant, 
at least for nitblessness in dealing with it, was the so-called "tank detach- 
ment" conspiracy. 

Organized in 1946 by an ambitious young officer who had studied 
abroad, Captain Eugenio de Marchena, the conception of this plot was 
fairly simple. While passing in review during military exercises which the 
Generalissimo was expected to attend, the tank under Marchena's com- 
mand was supposed to blast the presidential stand away. Shortly before 
zero hour, someone talked. A few hours before the parade, Trujillo 
clamped down on Captain de Marchena and his men. The whole tank 
outfit sixty men in all were silently transferred to isolated outposts on 
the Haitian-Dominican frontier in the small towns of Pedernales and Loma 
de Cabrera. Not long after they had taken up their new posts, the con- 
spirators were stabbed to death, all on the same day. Only Marchena was 
not killed on that occasion. Held as a prisoner and taken from camp to 
camp as an example to other officers, he was executed a year later. 

It is a soldier, a noncommissioned officer, to whom Dominican folk- 
lore attributes the status of Trajillo's Public Enemy Number One. The 
saga of the legendary sergeant Enrique Blanco (no kin to the Colonel) 
is a story Dominican countrymen pass around in whispers. Sometime 
during the middle Thirties, Blanco, a sort of Robin Hood, impelled by an 
inordinate hatred for Trujillo created a one-man reign of terror against the 
Army, For months this elusive one-man revolution kept hundreds of sol- 
diers on a war footing in the rich agricultural zone of the Cibao valley. 
Only when all the Blanco family and hundreds of farmers had been 
butchered in reprisals, did the Army manage to drive to suicide the fear- 
less sergeant. The soldiers who did not dare to get close to this man 
while still alive, for fear of his deadly marksmanship, took his body with 
them through the streets of several towns and villages, displaying it on a 
track. Blanco's almost incredible feats are kept alive in the words and 
music of a merengue known by many but sung by none. 

Probably there is as much discontent within the Army as there is in 
other walks of life, but the Blancos, de Marchenas and Vallejos seem 
merely forsaken names tossed long ago on the scrap heap. The military 
are as well-tamed as the rest of the Dominicans and they are much more 

Still, if there is a faint ray of hope, it must be looked for in the Armed 
Forces. Of course, nothing can be expected from the generals (of which 
the Dominican Army has a larger number comparatively than any other 
army in the world) ; they are so enamored of their wealth and property, 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 148 

and too involved to be trusted. Moreover, they are so afraid of popular 
vengeance that they dare not risk any change. 

However, not all the officers, especially the younger ones, are seasoned 
hoodlums or illiterate underworld characters, haunted by fears and bur- 
dened with crimes. Among the newer promotions are men who, under 
other circumstances, would have behaved as decent human beings. They 
cannot feel proud of themselves. It is our hope that whenever the country 
as a whole turns against the regime, as is bound to happen, these younger 
officers will meet the challenge and help with an orderly transition to a 
popular, representative form of government. 



number of political parties may exist, subject to one condition that one 
party is in power and the rest campaign from jail." The one on top is 
Trujillo's own party the Partido Dominicano. 

This joke indicates the degree of political freedom existing in the coun- 
try. The Dominican Constitution's elaborate bill of rights to the contrary, 
this is a modern one-party dictatorship. Unlike its Soviet counterpart, 
however, the Partido Dominicano is not an integral part of the State and 
does not run the country. 

Outwardly, the Partido Dominicano looks like the political party of a 
free nation. But a careful examination reveals such resemblance to be 
purely accidental. First, despite its seemingly democratic structure, the 
Party is only a subservient instrument of Trujillo's will. Second, lacking 
a genuine popular foundation, the Party does not have to cater to the elec- 
torate with platforms and promises it just tells the people how and when 
to vote. It also tells them how to behave in the presence of its Supreme 
Chief (Jeje Supremo}: Generalissimo Trujillo. "Pause before the Su- 
preme Chief with chest uplifted and right hand on heart" instructs a notice 
published on September 23, 1937, by the then Chairman of the Party, 
Daniel Henriquez Velazquez. 

Popular cooperation is not one of the things Trujillo craves, nor does 
he look with favor on any genuine political interest on the part of the 
masses. However, the rank and file are of tremendous use for the Party, 
particularly at the frequent parades and "spontaneous" demonstrations 
staged to glorify "the Chief/* On occasion the Party membership is 
herded into convention halls to rubber-stamp Trajillo's decisions. These 
meetings are held to give a smattering of democracy to the Party's pro- 
cedures, but in reality the delegates are confronted with a bizarre set of 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 150 

rules that make it impossible for them to disagree with "the Chiefs" 
wishes. "The Dominican Party demands from its members loyalty, en- 
thusiasm and discipline and consecrates and proclaims the principle of 
the Presidential reelection," states Article 5 of the Party's Charter. Ac- 
cording to Article 43, Trajillo has the exclusive right to appoint the 
Party Chairman and all paid employees of the organization; to authorize 
all Party expenditures and exercise the power of veto on Party resolutions, 
object to Party candidates and punish disloyalty. His authority as Supreme 
Chief is "undiminishable and untransferable," says the same article. 
Article 27 states that the Party's Executive Board "cannot dispose of any- 
thing which conflicts with the decisions of the Supreme Chief." At least 
four other articles make no bones about where the final judgment on 
Party matters rests and assure that Trujillo's will is final and that only his 
voice can be heard on Party councils. Accordingly, despite the Party's 
elaborate by-laws and its large bureaucracy, nothing is ever done with- 
out Trujillo's approval. "The Chief" not only lays down the political line 
he has to be consulted even on minor administrative details. The situa- 
tion is particularly obvious in financial matters. Only "the Chief keeps tabs 
on the financial records of the Party, which are never the subject of pub- 
lic reports. Apart from a few close associates of Trujillo, no one in the 
Dominican Republic has ever seen the Party's balance sheets, a fact that 
makes it one of the most private political organizations in the world. 

This fabulous political party has been in existence since 1931. Founded 
by Trajillo shortly after his first inauguration to cut short the wavering 
coalition rule brought about by the downfall of the Vasquez regime, the 
Partido Dominicano soon monopolized the country's political activities. 
In order to expedite his Party's task, Trujillo dissolved, absorbed or pro- 
scribed all other existing parties. 

Once "the Chief" had uprooted the influence of the old chieftains, he 
entrusted the Party with the mission of spreading the new gospel of tru~ 
jilHsmo. Its Charter stressed as a main function "to sustain, propagate 
and put into effect the patriotic creed of its founder (Trajillo)." 

Within a year of its creation the Party claimed control of 80 per cent 
of the electorate. Not an extraordinary exploit considering the favorite 
method of proselytizing: to throw the recalcitrants in jail and leave them 
there until they had signed up. This original method of recruiting has 
since given way to more subtle ones, but the Party has not grown weaker 
with the passing of time. On December 31, 1956, its enrollment showed 
a total of 1,452,170 members. As reported in the 1957 annual Conven- 
tion, 55,889 persons joined the organization during the preceding year. 

Membership figures include males as well as females, since the Party is 
open to all Dominicans over 18 years of age. After Trujillo's extension of 
the suffrage to women in 1942, the Party established a separate feminine 


branch and hence all Its lists of candidates for elected posts have con- 
tained a sprinkling of women. The feminine element, however, has never 
been of much consequence in Party affairs and the separate set-up did not 
last long. Gradually, the women's section merged into the main body 
of the Party and currently is another of its regular bureaus. The distinc- 
tion of heading this particular bureau has fallen upon a bevy of Trujillo's 
private procuresses. Yet, not all of its heads fall into such category. The 
present incumbent is Mrs. Amada Nivar de Pittaluga, a nice, fat lady, 
whose main qualification for the job is close kinship to one of the Bene- 
factor's most durable favorites Lina Lovaton Pittaluga. 

Apart from a faint, brief challenge by the extreme left in the middle 
forties, the Dominican Party's monopoly has gone undisputed in the 
political field. Even this short period of competition was fomented by Tru- 
jillo himself. Late in 1946 Trujilio arrived at a deal with the Cuban Com- 
munists and, as a result, a group of exiled Dominican Red leaders re- 
turned from Cuba and other countries to form the Partida Sodalista 
Popular (communist). Though hitherto both parties in this strange deal 
have kept secret its details, there are grounds to believe that Trujilio had 
promised free reign to the Reds inside the labor movement, in exchange 
of the latter's assurances of mild political opposition. 

Why did Trujilio indulge in this risky game? This has been an enigma. 
Those who know point out that the Dictator had a two-fold aim in mind. 
On one hand, he wished to present the brand-new Partido Sodalista Pop- 
ular as an example that political freedom existed in the country, and, on 
the other, he sought to prove that only the despised Communists were in 
opposition to him. Eventually Trujilio outlawed the PSP. 

The wind of post-war liberalism had not yet blown itself out. So, in 
deference to vogue, Trujilio resolved once again to set aside his highly 
successful one-party system. 1 With recent bitter experience still in mind, 
Trujilio settled for an alternative the creation of "opposition" parties of 
his own. 

The appropriate signals were then given to chosen collaborators. "No 
sooner said than done" and two new parties came into existence the 

1 I have refrained from mentioning the so-called Partido Trujttlista. Hitherto no 
one knows the reasons behind the organization of this party but in preparation for 
the 1942 elections the Dictator entrusted his personal dentist, Dr. Jose Enrique Aybar, 
with the job of forming this political group. Apparently the Partido Trufillista was 
never meant to be a rival political organization, but rather a club of the political elite 
within the framework of the Dominican Party, Its only active drive was an alleged 
"depuration** or purge campaign conducted through a group of University students 
loiown as the Guardia Universitaria (University Guard) . Cabinet members and other 
high officials went through the humiliating experience of being questioned by young 
University students about their personal loyalty to "the Chief." After the purges 
were completed almost everyone was a member of both, parties, which then pro- 
ceeded to nominate TrujHlo for President. After the common victory at the polls the 
new party promptly folded up. 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 152 

Partido Laborista (Labor Party) and the Partido Nadonal Democrdtico 
(National Democratic Party). 

Decidedly, the three-party system was a smash hit. Overnight the 
Dominican Republic became a safe "democracy" and Trujillo could show 
his own "loyal opposition" to visiting journalists. Quietly the parties held 
what amounted to private conventions and their lists of candidates were 
made pubEc on March 31, 1947. The Dominican Party as expected nom- 
inated Trujillo for President. Then everybody retired to the sidelines to 
wait for election day. The labor candidate, however, almost derailed the 
smooth scheme. As head of the Labor Party's ticket there had been chosen 
a Francisco Prats Ramirez, a member of the Dominican Congress for 
the Partido Dominicano, who just a few months before had composed a 
lyrical birthday stamp for the Benefactor. The pre-electoral campaign was 
quietly proceeding as scheduled without unnecessary speeches or appeals 
to the voters, when it suddenly took an unexpected turn. Prats Ramirez 
had forgotten himself and signed with other fellow Congressmen a peti- 
tion favoring Trujillo's reelection to a fourth term. Though the slip caused 
a lot of official embarrassment it did not influence the electoral returns. 
A pro-Trujillo landslide was announced on May 16 "the Chief was in 
again with 92 per cent of the vote. (The Dominican Party was officially 
credited with 781,389 votes, the National Democratic Party with 29,765 
and the Labor Party with 29,186). Nevertheless, Dominicans were not 
through with their "opposition" candidates. The announcement that Mrs. 
Consuelo Prats Ramirez, wife of the defeated Labor Party presidential can- 
didate, had won the only labor seat in Congress provoked a sharp com- 
ment which speedily spread throughout the country. In Spanish "consuelo" 
means "consolation." So Dominicans consoled themselves by calling the 
newly elected Congresswoman "Mrs. Consolation Prize." 

Though successful, the experiment has not been repeated. The "opposi- 
tion" parties were promptly buried. So deeply buried that four years later, 
in 1951, when an American journalist asked the Chairman of the Par- 
tido Domimcano about the country's political system, the Dominican poli- 
tician scratched his head in a vain effort to remember the names of the 
alleged opposition parties. "He (the Chairman) called in an assistant who 
likewise scratched his head in vain," wrote Theodore Draper in The Re- 
porter. "It took a little research outside the office to produce the informa- 
tion. "They are so small, they do not count/ Senor Tolentiono (the Chair- 
man) explained good-humoredly." 

Always a scrupulous observer of the letter of all Constitutional canons, 
Trujillo would not think of disregarding the electoral provisions of the 
Dominican Magna Charta. To help affix the sanction of the people's ap- 
proval to Trujillo's power, the Party still provides hand-picked lists of 


candidates. However, in recent elections all pretense at democratic pro- 
cedure has been thrown overboard and the "trujiltista*' ticket Is always 
rewarded with 100 per cent of the vote. "Not even dictators such as 
Hitler or Stalin, Mussolini or Franco would have dared to announce such 
unanimous results," wrote Jesus de Galindez. 

Yet, even for rigged elections people need advice. As election time ap- 
proaches, the Party's propaganda machine is put to work teEing the con- 
stituents how to vote. Since no one in his senses would ever contradict the 
official Party's directives, the job is not difficult. Without much electioneer- 
ing (usually a few newspaper articles and a handful of rallies are enough) 
the Party achieves wonderful results. In the elections for members of a 
Constituent Assembly held on November 13, 1955, all the votes cast 
1,182,455 were attributed to the Dominican Party passive candidates. 

In preparation for the 1957 presidential elections the Party conducted 
another of its peculiar campaigns. First, it went through the ritualistic pro- 
ceeding of offering the nomination to the Generalissimo who with the air 
of a demigod refused it. (His 28-year-old son, Rafael, Jr., was not avail- 
able either for the Vice-Presidental slot.) On "the Chiefs" recommenda- 
tion the Party turned then toward the faithful and obedient incumbent 
Hector B. Trajillo, who agreed once more to play the puppet. For the re- 
cently recreated post of Vice-President the selection fell upon Dr. Joaquin 
Balaguer, a mild-mannered, soft-spoken intellectual with a long record of 
service to TrajiHo, Reasons for the Vice-Presidential selection are not 
clear. However, in a formal statement addressed to the Party the Gen- 
eralissimo stressed the point that he was choosing Dr. Balaguer because 
of Ms desire to reward a deserving youngster. Cynics state that at 52 
Balaguer is hardly a youngster. But Balaguer, they recall, is the author of 
an adulatory paper entitled "God and Trujfllo/ 5 which he read at a for- 
mal session of the Dominican Academy of History. 

The electoral campaign was not a lively one. Neither Hector nor his 
running-mate delivered a single speech, nor, for that matter, did any of 
the candidates for elective posts. Party organizers and professional agi- 
tators were put in charge of the electoral chores. There were huge parades 
and raEies, and much speech making. However, any one unfamiliar with 
the Dominican political scene would have been misled into believing that 
the man up for election was the Generalissimo. All the rallies, all the 
speeches, all the banners, all the slogans featured him. Only secondarily 
were the candidates mentioned. It did not make any difference. Last May 
16 practicaEy the entire adult population the halt and the blind in- 
cluded poured into the booths to elect the Dominican Party ticket. 

The Party's card is part of every Dominican adult life. Official docu- 
ments such as applications for passports, for import or export licenses, 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 154 

for marriage licenses, for certificates of good conduct, for enrollment at 
the University, all have a line in which the applicant must fill in Ms 
membership number and date of affiliation with the Party. 

Membership in the Party by itself does not guarantee employment. 
Patronage is Trujillo's exclusive prerogative and one of his most adroitly 
employed weapons. Not even minor local offices escape "the Chiefs" 
personal grasp. Moreover, in this, as in many other matters, there are 
no set rules. The Generalissimo's whims are as much of a deciding factor 
as the aspirant's record of loyalty to the Party. Trujillo guards so jealously 
this prerogative that to handle patronage he has several special aides, who 
are in no way connected with the Party organization. 

Occasionally the Party swings over the heads of its members the club 
of expulsion. Cautiously administered in the past, the punishment is now 
employed with increased frequency. The most recent victims have been 
several former close associates of the Benefactor, whose personal dis- 
pleasure they had provoked. Usually the disciplinary action has no perma- 
nent effects. After a certain length of time a pardon is granted and "the 
Chief" graciously welcomes the disciplined members back into the fold. 
But, before securing parole and therefore the possibility of regaining their 
means of livelihood, the alleged culprits are forced to recant most abjectly. 
Their letters confessing past errors and political sins are printed in full in 
the newspapers as an example for all. Then the Generalissimo magnani- 
mously grants the requested absolution. The Benefactor's gesture is usually 
accompanied by flattering editorials written in the National Palace. 

TrujiHo is a lover of eulogies. To feed his hankering for praise the 
Party has been converted into a ready-made instrument of adulation. A 
great deal of money, time and effort is spent by the Party to keep up the 
continuous flow of adulatory literature which feeds Trujillo's ego. Radio, 
television, newspapers and loudspeakers work in a concerted effort, sell- 
ing Trujillo's "glorious achievements" to his weary fellow citizens and 
to the world at large as well. The Party sponsors all kinds of literary ven- 
tures to present Trujillo in a favorable light These are the activities which 
have earned for the Party a special mention in the newest Trujillo Con- 
stitution as a "vehicle of culture." 

Part of the Party's propaganda activity is, likewise, the staging of gi- 
gantic mass rallies. Cooperating in full force with the Party along this 
line always can be found Government departments, schools, labor unions, 
civic groups, social clubs, chambers of commerce, Rotary Clubs, Masonic 
Lodges, religious associations, farmer groups and Boy Scouts. On such 
occasions the speakers* platform is shared by the pick of the trujlllista sup- 
porters. As a rule the oratory is channeled toward adulation for "the 
Chief." Sometimes, however, the speakers shower abuse on those in the 
political doghouse. Their "traitorous" activities "against the Fatherland" 


as well as their alleged "communistic" leanings are denounced with gusto, 
particularly since the speakers know that if they do not put enough 
vehemence in their attacks they are liable to be accused of "lacking in 
trujiltista fervor" an unpardonable crime. It should be added that often 
today's accuser is tomorrow's accused, and vice versa. 

On the sidelines the Party performs still another important task. It 
gathers information about every living soul in the Dominican Republic. 
With the purpose of giving a helping hand to the official secret police 
agencies, the Party keeps in its files complete records of the private and 
public life, background, habits, personal character and political leanings 
of each Dominican citizen of any importance and of foreigners residing 
permanently in the country. Based upon data collected by informers, 
the dossiers contain unevaluated and unsupported evidence compiled from 
rumors, malicious gossip and plain hearsay. 

For its gossip-gathering activities the Party hires a large number of 
people. Its paid informers are called "inspectors." Other undercover 
agents work on a part-time basis; still others spy just for fun. To encour- 
age the latter sort, the Party spreads the word that what they call "good 
services" are well rewarded. Yet, the bulk of information comes from the 
servant class. To keep going this valuable source of information the Party 
organized several years ago a so-called "School of Maids." Located at 
the Ciudad Trujillo headquarters this informer's training center operated 
for several years disguised as a school for "domestic science and home 
economics." It was discontinued about five years ago when the Party au- 
thorities discovered that its "graduates" were subject to a nation-wide 
unorganized boycott. Participants in this really spontaneous movement of 
silent protest were not only foes of the regime but also some of its best 
friends and collaborators. After all, no one likes to be spied on! 

Aside from being the watchdog of the political and personal mores of 
its members, the Party is also a kind of guardian angel, spending a modi- 
cum of its takings on charities, always performed in "the Chiefs" name. 
Each donation, such as a sewing machine for a poor widow or a wooden 
leg for an indigent invalid, is accompanied by a kind letter supposedly 
straight from the Benefactor. The newspapers receive lengthy releases 
praising the Generalissimo's "proverbial generosity," which they run some- 
times accompanied by photographs of the "grateful, lucky beneficiaries." 
As a result, Trujillo is deluged with requests, ranging from sets of musi- 
cal instruments (usually granted) to barber's chairs (sometimes denied). 

Supposedly to carry out this and similar programs, the Party has assured 
itself of a regular income of several million dollars a year. An idea of the 
size of the Party earnings might be gathered from the fact that, aside from 
the contributions it exacts from its members in business, it has been re- 
ceiving since 1931 ten per cent of the monthly pay of each person on the 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 156 

Government's payroll. This tithe, bringing over $2 million a year, is auto- 
matically deducted and turned over to its treasury. 

Moreover, the Party has been engaged for years in highly profitable 
business ventures. Though no one knows for sure what happens to the 
loose change, it is assumed that at frequent intervals the money collected 
by the Party is transferred from its treasury to Trajilio's own personal 
pockets. Otherwise, after 26 years of successful operations, the amount 
of liquid capital in the Party's treasury would be staggering. 

One thing Trujillo's stern eye has not prevented is corruption in the 
Party's bureaucracy. As in other branches of the regime, the Party officials 
receive cuts and commissions from the people dealing with them, from 
printing shops to office equipment suppliers. Stories of corruption in the 
Party appear frequently in the newspapers. R. Pafno Pichardo, one of its 
last chairmen, was fired from his post at the beginning of 1956, after the 
press printed charges of malfeasance of funds set apart for the Party's 
building at the International Fair. 

Even if the Party does not wield real power, it is conspicuously present 
everywhere. Its modernistic quarters, worth in excess of $3 million, are 
a prominent feature of 54 cities and towns across the country. These 
buildings, with the organization's royal palm insignia prominently dis- 
played, are usually the best and most comfortable in each locality. Called 
"Party Palaces," they are easily recognizable since, apart from small varia- 
tions, they look much alike in all cities they are copies in minor scale 
of the sumptuous national headquarters in Ciudad Trujillo. Their common 
characteristic: the same gleaming white stucco fronts and the identical 
quotations from Trujillo's speeches in raised letters. Carved in each 
palace's fagade, in big, glittering characters, is the slogan of the Party: 
"Rectitud, Libertad, Trabdjo, Moralidad" (The words have been chosen 
not for their meaning but for the reason that their first letters from the 
initials of Trujillo's complete name: RLTM.) Also adorning the palace** 
fronts are such Trujillo's sayings as: "Mis mejores amigos son los hombres 
de trabajo" (Workingmen are my best friends), and "No hay peligro en 
seguirme" (There is no danger in following me). 

Each first floor is arranged for the normal business of the Party 
offices, reception halls and auditorium. The latter is particularly impor- 
tant because one of the Party's main activities is the so-called "conferen- 
citf* or compulsory indoctrinating one-night course on Trujillo's patriotic 
deeds. The second floor is another thing. Few ordinary party members 
have ever set foot on them. There are luxurious living quarters in them, 
always ready for the boss to use. Access to them is forbidden even to local 
chieftains. For trespassing many a man has lost a sinecure. 

Real estate, however, is not the Party's main business. It is a fact 
that its investments in all business were reported to exceed $6 million 


in February 1957. One of the Party's exclusive provinces was until fairly 
recently a broadly-publicized social welfare program the giving away of 
free milk and shoes to the needy. Actually, while receiving all credit for 
this piece of political charity, the Party not only was not putting a cent of 
its own in but was making money. The funds to carry out the program 
were provided by the Dominican Government. The milk, in its turn, was 
bought from TnijiMo's dairy monopoly (Industrial Lechera C. par A.) and 
the shoes from the Dictator's own shoe factory (Fadoc). Furthermore, a 
few years back the Party was active in building houses for low-income 
families. Again the Government provided the funds and the Party made 
the profits on the sales of the houses. The Party also provides medical 
care for ailing elders and sick children in the Government's hospitals 
and at the State expense. These are just a few of the ways in which Tru- 
jfflo exploits the rich possibilities of combining business and philanthropy. 
The Party likewise has done well for itself in straight business ven- 
tures. Its investment specialities are publishing houses (it once owned 
outright the daily La Nation and was until 1954 the second biggest stock- 
holder in El Caribe); but its tentacles reach out to other fields according 
to Trujillo's desires. (Recently it provided the capital for a vegetable 
growing corporation in the mountain resort of Constanza.) All Party fi- 
nancial investments are sure bets. When a business is not profitable 
enough, it is promptly unloaded. As a money-making proposition the 
Dominican Party is certainly a unique institution and perhaps the only 
political organization in the world operating at a profit. But the Party's 
earnings represent only a minor part of TrujiHo's income. 



propaganda is that which deals with material progress and the develop- 
ment of the country's natural resources. With the help of long columns of 
statistics, Trujillo's eulogists do not miss an opportunity to show that 
Dominicans never had it so good before and that Santo Domingo is one 
of the most progressive and wealthy countries of Latin America. 

The Benefactor himself, as is shown by his own statements, revels in 
long accounts, usually written by Ms own press agents, of the "prodigious 
strides" made under his personal guidance to achieve the splendid trans- 
formation of the country from a backward tropical hell-hole into an ad- 
vanced modern nation. 

There is much truth and much mere propaganda in these glossy ac- 
counts of progress. It would be childish to deny that, for better or worse, 
"the Big One" has played an important role in the latter-day economic 
development of the nation. But, while Trujillo's share in spurring eco- 
nomic advances has been overemphasized by his propagandists, for ob- 
vious reasons the selfish motives behind Trujillo's economic policies have 
been overlooked by his partisans and left in the hands of his enemies. The 
resulting lack of balance in the different approaches makes it another 
of those things concerning the Benefactor in which it is almost impossible 
to achieve objectivity. 

There are, to be sure, enough proofs to show how much the standard 
of living has improved throughout the country under Trujillo's rule. It is, 
however, too early to assess properly the lasting effects of Trujillo's so- 
called enterprise, imagination and resourcefulness upon the future course 
of Dominican progress. Trujillo's economic policies are seemingly aimed 
at granting ample incentives to the enterprising spirit of business, but as 
in practically everything else the Benefactor has been often guided by 
expediency and self-interest. 


It is impossible, on the other hand, to determine whether the progress 
of the country would have been greater had it been governed by a demo- 
cratic regime during the last twenty-seven years. The obvious advantages 
of a dictatorship in making trains run on time, averting strikes and forcing 
people to work hard are too well-known to be repeated here, although in 
Tnijillo's case it might be pointed out that despite the fact that he had 
been in power since 1930 it was not until the early forties when the Do- 
minican Republic, as many other Latin American nations, began to gain a 
full measure of prosperity. Even today, while the picture is not as gloomy 
as it was twenty years back, it is not as rosy as claimed by the tourist 
leaflets. The country with its 19,000 square miles and 2,698,126 inhabit- 
ants is still a partially developed land. The wealth of the Dominican Re- 
public, notwithstanding tax exemptions and sky-high tariffs intended to 
stimulate industrial growth, is almost exclusively derived from its agri- 
cultural products, chiefly a few cash crops. More than 80 per cent of the 
working population is engaged in agricultural activities and more than 90 
per cent of the country's exports comes from plantations and farms. 

Nevertheless, a walk through the streets of the capital serves to demon- 
strate material improvements in a variety of ways. Old buildings are being 
demolished. Broader avenues and four-lane highways are in process of 
construction and tall new buildings spring up alongside as if by magic. 
The building boom, however, though it helps the Trujillo-owned cement 
monopoly, is not a cause but a result of prosperity. The good times are 
due to the solid price of coffee, sugar, tobacco and cocoa in foreign mar* 
kets they alone accounted in 1956 for 86.8 per cent of the total value of 
national exports. Important as well, although to a much less degree, are 
rice, corn, bananas, tropical woods and vegetables. The large foreign 
trade, independent of any action on the part of the Government itself, 
has been largely responsible for the current prosperity. 

These favorable factors, however, would have meant little for the ad- 
ministration and the people as a whole had not the Government taken 
certain steps to ensure the following: First, the adroit manipulation of the 
sizable reserves of foreign exchange accumulated during the last decade 
of rising prices, in order to bolster not only the official monetary poli- 
cies but also certain sectors of the national economy. Second, the re- 
peal, through a Constitutional Amendment passed in 1934, of the pro- 
hibition imposed upon the Government's power to tax export commodities, 
which had been inserted in the prior Constitutions under pressure from 
foreign interests. This amendment alone made it possible for the regime 
to lay its hands upon large amounts of cold cash that had been unavailable 
to previous administrations. 

It seems fair to conclude that the chances are that as long as the for- 
eign buyers of Dominican cash crops keep on paying the current high 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 160 

prices there will be prosperity in the country. Or, at least, a semblance of 
prosperity, since many of the external trappings of material progress are 
deceptive in a country where wealth and property is highly concentrated 
in the hands of a small elite. The situation is further complicated by the 
fact that in most cases political and personal criteria are the determining fac- 
tors of the majority of the important movements of the regime in the 
fields of trade, agriculture and industry. Most of the so-called efforts to 
increase production or to create new sources of wealth and welfare are 
circumscribed to spheres in which the Generalissimo is personally inter- 
ested. Nonetheless, the opinion of many of Trujillo's detractors to the con- 
trary, even under these conditions some of the widely advertised prosperity 
has trickled down to the masses. 

It has been said, and properly, that upon the fortunes of a few crops 
lie the hopes of the Generalissimo for carrying out his most ambitious 
plans for the economic development of the country. This Trujillo knows 
well. So well, in fact, that he himself has linked his personal and political 
future with that of the largest of Dominican agricultural activities the 
production of sugar and its by-products. 

Largely controlled by TrujiHo-owned corporations (twelve of the six- 
teen active factories belong to them) the Dominican sugar industry has 
increased production during the last five years, assuming definite leader- 
ship among Latin American exporters, second only to Cuba. By Decree of 
the President of the Republic its production for 1957 was fixed at 993,172 
short tons. However, due to the existing U.S. legal system of import 
quotas and tariffs which makes concessions in favor of Cuba and Puerto 
Rico, the two main Caribbean competitors of the Dominican sugar indus- 
try, the Dominican industry is forced to sell outside the protected and 
highly lucrative American market in what is known as the "world" or 
"free" market. As there is a marked difference of prices between the two 
markets, under normal conditions, Trujillo Mr. Sugar himself in his own 
country has been making strenuous efforts to convince the American 
Congress that it should apportion him a larger share of the high-priced 
U.S. market. His lobbyists spare neither money nor influence in their 
struggle to assure Dominican sweets a place beside Cuban and Puerto 
Rican sugar in the American heart. 

Exalted words about justice (most of them justified, strangely enough) 
are uttered time and again to cover the selfish motives of the sugar mer- 
chant named Trujillo. "Unlike other Caribbean countries we have never 
enjoyed the economic aid and protection of the great industrial nations," 
asserted the Benefactor in a press interview. "All that we have done we 
have done alone. But if there is one thing that we have asked and will 
continue to ask it is more equitable treatment in reference to sugar, our 
principal product. While the Dominican Republic buys most of its imports 


from the United States, restrictive laws prohibit the sale of more than five 
per cent of our production. Because of this discrimination the Dominican 
Republic is forced to sell its sugar in markets where at present it brings 
35 per cent less than it would in the United States, This situation is prej- 
udicial to the Dominican Republic. It is also prejudicial to the best in- 
terests of North American manufacturers from whom we buy our imports 
and points up the necessity of reconsidering economic arrangements be- 
tween the United States and Latin America." 

These high-sounding words were echoed by the trujilllsta financial 
wizard and manager of Trajillo's personal interest in sugar, Dr. Jose Maria 
Toncoso Sanchez, who said: "The Dominican economy is a sugar econ- 
omy. Cuba and Puerto Rico sell in the U.S. market, which is protected. 
They sell for $5.50 in the U.S. what we sell for $3.10 in the international 
market. . . . The only reason we fight for a higher sugar quota from the 
United States is to have more money for the people." 

This concern for the attainment of stable and profitable sugar markets 
would be commendable had it stemmed from genuine patriotism. The 
Dominican Sugar industry, after all even now as a Trujillo quasi- 
monopoly is responsible for 44.2 per cent of the country's total volume 
of exports. It also employs 73.7 per cent of the working population and 
pays 67.7 per cent of the salaries and wages. Despite the fact that most 
of its large Trajillo-owned sector is tax-exempt, the sugar industry is one 
of the main sources of fiscal revenues. 

On the other hand, the sugar industry is not, and has never been, a 
national industry in the pure sense of the word. Before Trujillo took it 
under his personal control it was operated by large foreign corporations 
intent only on producing sugar cheaply and making big profits when pos- 
sible. Under the monopolistic hands of Trujillo the industry is not used 
for social progress but as a means to assuage the thirst for power and 
wealth of its insatiable owner. Trujillo's invasion of the sugar production 
field has brought about calamitous changes in the economic structure of 
the country as well as in the forms of land tenure. Wages have been 
lowered and a great deal of the work in "the Chief s'* plantations is done 
by a new class of slave workers recruited from soldiers, prisoners, unem- 
ployed city dwellers and so-called "vagrants." "The Big One's" land- 
grabbing activities to round tip Ms large sugar properties have laid the 
foundation for a latifundia system evident in the growing concentration of 
the best agricultural tracts in the hands of the Benefactor and a few of 
Ms relatives and henchmen. The ensuing decline in the number of farms 
and small holdings is responsible for dangerous proletarianization of 
Mtherto independent fanners. 

Next to sugar, the second largest sources of Dominican wealth are 
coffee and cocoa. For several hundred years large amounts of these prod- 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 162 

ucts have been exported to the extent that a type of cocoa has received 
the name of "Sanchez," the principal export center in the country. On 
account of high prices in the foreign markets, production of cocoa and 
coffee is rapidly increasing. In 1955 coffee took second place among Do- 
minican exports with $28,402,357, followed by cocoa with $23,889,261. 
Here again we find the ever-grasping hand of the Benefactor. It is esti- 
mated that from each dollar that these two crops bring into the country, 
either Trajillo personally or his Administration takes out a sixty cent cut, 
leaving the rest to be divided among planters, laborers, intermediaries and 
exporters. The Benefactor as honorary member of the export cartels of 
such products, to which all importers are forced to belong, shares a part 
of the profits without any risk on his part. 

Wealthy as it is, the Dominican Republic is no agricultural paradise. 
There are areas, especially in the famous Cibao Valley, where land is so 
rich and the climate so equable that very little human effort is required 
to produce a crop and several crops may be grown in one year, even 
though outmoded farm techniques are stiiU. employed almost without ex- 
ception. Yet, other parts of the country need irrigation and still others 
are what might be literally called desert. To bring these areas into pro- 
duction the Government has been furthering much-talked-about irriga- 
tion projects and through another of the many Trujillo-owned corpora- 
tions is offering the services of farming machinery to the peasants. 
However, the high cost of this service impedes most of the fanners in 
making use of it. 

To say that great strides have been made is no exaggeration, though 
there is much to be done yet. It has not been an easy job either, since 
traditionally Dominican resources were inadequately used and widespread 
poverty seemed to be endemic and ineradicable. Hence, it must be ad- 
mitted that the present methods of developing the country's natural re- 
sources are a step away from the more pernicious economic habits of the 
past, when Dominicans would invest only in real estate or mortgages and 
shun investments in productive enterprises* 

The fact that during many years Trujillo could not show any real 
progress is not entirely his fault. He took power in 1930 in the middle 
of a world economic crisis, at a time when the Dominican national in- 
come had dropped to $7,000,000; exports had sunk to less than $10,000,- 
000; the foreign debt stood at $20,000,000 (plus an internal funded debt 
of several million more), and customs traditionally the chief source of 
revenue were in American receivership. 

By 1934, owing to a revision of debt payments, things started to im- 
prove. An Emergency Law of October 23, 1931, diverted to government 
expenses $1,500,000 from customs revenues which up to then had been 
pledged to service the foreign loans. 


From then on Trujillo felt free to put into practice Ms conceptions in 
the economic field. The upswing, however, did not come until the war 
and post-war years. The first big jump in Dominican trade, from $31,000,- 
000 to $50,000,000, took place in 1942, Since then Trujillo has been able 
to manipulate yearly favorable trade balances amounting on occasion to 
as much as $20 million. (In 1956 the country's exports were $126,480,- 
542 whereas imports were $108,092,125.) National income is estimated 
currently at $542,678,100, or roughly a per capita income of $226 a year. 
The foreign debt was paid off in 1947 and the country does not owe a 
dollar to any foreign banker or Government. (The internal debt, how- 
ever, has been growing fast in the last four years. In July 1956 it reached 
the all-time high of $120,659,255.) National budgets have been in sur- 
plus since 1931 and the one for 1957-58 (largest of all) was figured at 
$131,525,000. The Dominican gold peso remains firmly at par with the 
United States dollar, even though at the end of 1955, as a result of the 
unbridled spending on the World Fair project, exchange reserves dipped 
20% and have not wholly recovered. 

New industries most of them developed since World War II turn 
out a wide array of commodities (many formerly imported), such as glass- 
ware, cement, textiles, air conditioning equipment, steel articles, barbed 
wire, batteries, asbestos materials, paper bags, paints, fertilizers, beer and 
other alcoholic beverages, peanut oil, nails and cattle feed. The traditional 
industries (such as sugar, meat packing, rum, cigarettes, dairy by-prod- 
ucts, soap, and matches) have also been enlarged and modernized. In- 
dustrial progress is further showed by these statistics: In 1935 there were 
1,076 manufacturing establishments employing 20,301 people and turn- 
ing out 16,3 million dollars* worth of produce* In 1954 there were three 
times as many establishments with three times as many employees, pro- 
ducing articles worth more than $162,000,000. 

Behind this boom there is a lot of Government intervention. The Gov- 
ernment intervenes from start to finish in the process of establishing a 
new enterprise in the country. If the project is considered "satisfactory" 
to Trujillo himself or those of his associates whom he has put in charge 
of that operation, the matter is referred to the proper Government au- 
thorities and a contract is signed between the company and the State 
specifying taxes, tariff exonerations, extent of the investment and other 
pertinent points. 

As a result, practically all of the principal industrial enterprises now in 
operation within the country have been established by Trujillo himself or 
by people in partnership with him. A few have been started by the Gov- 
ernment itself and later, if proven profitable, turned over to private in- 
terests, usually those in which "the Big One" has his hand. "Government 
policy is to operate industries new to the country," points out a friendly 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 164 

publication, "until they have demonstrated the ability to go it alone. 
Financial support is then withdrawn and operation turned over to private 
management. Strong government protection of the firm, either Dominican 
or foreign-owned, incorporated under Dominican laws, continues; so far in 
practice, it might be said that complete separation is never quite made." 

Unable to free themselves from government controls, Dominican busi- 
nessmen are at the mercy of Trujillo's caprices. The Benefactor can make 
or destroy them and knowing it they show, like the rest of the Dominicans, 
insecurity and timidity in their everyday doings. According to the afore- 
mentioned publication: "There are few countries in the world where 
commercial and industrial activity is so thoroughly blended and coordi- 
nated with Government. That, of course, could be both an asset and a 
liability. ... It might even be said that with good government relations 
no foreign firm loses money in the Dominican Republic." What the maga- 
zine failed to explain was that "good government relations" mean total 
surrender to the Benefactor's will. 

The close ties between Government, Trujillo personally, and foreign or 
domestic private interests is best demonstrated in the standing projects 
for the exploitation of the mineral wealth of the country. Outside agricul- 
ture, nature has not been very prodigal with the country, but nonetheless 
efforts are being conducted to tap the mineral reserves of the country, 
believed to be varied but limited. All concessions, save those for ex- 
ploitation of bauxite, have been granted to corporations owned by Tru- 
jillo or in which he has a stake. These enterprises have been engaged since 
1947 in an intensive exploration and evaluation of the nation's resources, 
which it is said have revealed the existence of deposits of gold, salt, iron, 
bauxite, sulphur, gypsum, chrome, copper, cobalt, graphite, titanium, 
lime, nickel, platinum, asbestos, and uranium. Some coal has also been 

Although the extent of the iron deposits has not been fully estimated, 
these are being worked since 1952 and it is believed that sufficient high- 
grade reserves exist to continue shipping 20,000 tons a year to the 
United States plus supplying a local steel industry for many years. Ex- 
ploitation of the iron deposits was started in 1953 by an American corpo- 
ration named Minera Panamericana by virtue of an arrangement with the 
Trujillo corporation Minera Hatillo. As officers of the American corpora- 
tion at the time there were a former U.S. lieutenant general, W. Larsen, 
and a man who had just been relieved of the highly sensitive post of 
Naval Attache of the United States Embassy in Ciudad Trujillo, Lieu- 
tenant Commander Harold Thompson Mejias. Suddenly the Larsen- 
Thompson group was dropped in favor of a new group of American 

As result of this new partnership one of Trujillo's persistent dreams 


has been reactivated the search for oil. Although scientific studies show 
a faint possibility of oil deposits, these have not been located, despite the 
fact that the Dominican Government has spent a fortune prospecting. 

The only non-TnijMo mining operation in the Dominican Republic is 
conducted by Alcoa Exploration Company (a subsidiary of the Aluminum 
Corporation of America) in the bauxite fields of Cabo Rojo, on the south 
coast. The contract under which those operations are being conducted 
was announced in May 1957 as a "far reaching step in the program set 
under way by Generalissimo Rafael L. Trajfflo for the Dominican Re- 
public's economic progress." William B. Pawley, whose suggestions served 
as a basis for the new Dominican laws on investment, hailed the signature 
of the contract as a step evincing confidence in the Dominion Republic as a 
field for foreign capital investment. 

Pawley, whose official capacity is that of "honorary adviser of the Do- 
minican Republic's Bureau of Mining," added that the Alcoa contract 
should encourage other investors to stake large amounts in the develop- 
ment of the country's mineral and oil resources. 

Obsessed by the idea that one of Ms missions on earth is to make the 
country known to the outside world, Trujillo believes that spectacular 
building is the way to achieve Ms aim. Consequently, the Benefactor has 
embarked the Administration on an ambitious* expensive and seemingly 
endless program of construction. This embraces the building of new ports, 
superhighways, airports, bridges, irrigation works, public buildings, 
churches, housing projects, electric stations and factories. It must be 
said that the accomplishments have been many and that more can be ex- 
pected as long as the country maintains its present enviable financial posi- 
tion and its four cheap-labor crops sustain themselves in the dollar 

However, advances along other lines in which Trujillo also appears to 
be interested are not so apparent. Increased efficiency has been achieved 
in the Administrative machinery, but to judge by the content of the many 
Trujillo-sponsored letters to the editors which appear in the daily press 
corruption is rampant and inefficiency hampers the normal development 
of plans for the development of the country. 

Despite the obvious shortcomings of the human element engaged in 
carrying out Government programs, great progress has been brought about 
in public health, sanitation and education. Every city and town of impor- 
tance has its own aqueduct (one may usually drink water directly from 
the tap) and the capital and Santiago have excellent sewage systems. 
About forty modern hospitals have been built and much is being done to 
tackle the problem of endemic diseases such as hookworm, tuberculosis, 
malaria and syphilis. Solid cement block homes are slowly replacing 

TRUJDLLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 166 

thatched huts that were standard housing for centuries. Although some 
slum clearance programs have been announced, there is much to do. 

Those who, aware of the limitations of Dominican economy, have seen 
the conspicuous display of wealth in the World Fair and other new proj- 
ects may well ask: Where does the money come from? A satisfactory an- 
swer cannot be given without resorting to a long-drawn-out recital of 
many factors already mentioned, but a simplified explanation boils down 
to one word; taxation. 

Taxation makes true the most extravagant dreams of the dictator; it 
is a weapon for the destruction of the most hated enemies of the regime, 
and is the supreme principle of fiscal policy within the Dominican scheme. 

Dominicans are today the most taxed people in the world, though, 
strangely enough, there are few direct tributes. There is not an income 
tax, at least as Americans know it, and the cumbersome and unscientific 
corporation tax is extremely low by any standard. Taxation, however, 
amounts to a crushing capital levy. High excise and export tributes, along 
with some unique taxes on production and inventories, eat up, within the 
high-income groups, the margins of capital which otherwise could be used 
for further economic development and expansion of trade and manufac- 
ture. A maze of indirect tributes, leaning heavily on necessities and other 
articles of everyday consumption, puts a heavy stress upon low-income 
groups and increases the cost of living, thus fostering inflation. 



Dominican Republic one must study it like a coin first one side and then 
the other." We have seen one face of its tremendous economic progress. 
Before examining the other, we should point out that the effects of pros- 
perity should not be measured merely in terms of tons of concrete poured 
or miles of roads built, but also in terms of human satisfaction. Put 
through this latter test, Trujillo's so-called prosperity and progress prove 
a dismal failure. A very small portion of the population shares in the 
much-advertised material progress. 

Perhaps the country is no longer the hemisphere's poorhouse. Perhaps 
Government revenues are high and strides have been made "that have 
taken nations centuries to accomplish." Perhaps the country, once the 
most backward in Latin America, now is in the vanguard. Perhaps people 
are acquiring more luxuries as well as taking a fancy for those things 
which are not truly necessities. (For example, last year the number of 
radios in the country was estimated at 58,000. There were about 2,000 
TV sets and 7,150 automobiles.) 


Moreover, Ciudad Trujillo, showplace of the dictatorship, Is a clean, 
modem city as weU as a fast-spreading one. Its streets and markets are 
spotless; its stores well stocked; its night life, if not actually gay, is not 
devoid of charm, especially for those who like gambling; its traffic is 
orderly and its courteous and well-mannered inhabitants look content and 
busy. The eulogies (daily reprinted by the local press) that junketing 
journalists heap upon the city are factual and well deserved. This much, 
of course, is true, but it is far from the whole truth. 

The full story is quite another thing. The stark truth, despite all the 
alleged new bright spots, is that for the average citizen the basic realities 
are still the same as in the pre-Trajillo days, when not worse in certain 
cases. A peasant economy based on four cheap-labor crops prevails as 
always. Two-thirds of the population still produce little, consume little 
and buy practically nothing. Although there is basically no unemploy- 
ment and almost everyone works and works hard this happens be- 
cause, in the last analysis, everyone works first of all for the regime. New 
industries and so-called new sources of work have proved to be no de- 
terrents for the rampant inflation choking the working classes, who earn 
80 per cent less than their North American counterparts and must pay 
living costs as high as those of the United States if not higher. 

It may be that a clean market place is better than a dirty one and that a 
wide street is preferable to a narrow one, but there is little consolation in 
seeing fine supermarkets and broad avenues as near to filthy slums and 
dire poverty as they are in Ciudad Trujillo. And, certainly, markets 
stocked with luscious fresh vegetables that few people cam afford to buy 
are unadulterated window dressing. Neither the elegance of the city's 
shops nor the beauty of its buildings can hide the fact that just a few 
blocks away live people who cannot buy even a pair of shoes. The multi- 
tude of the begging, the unclad and the underfed defy police regulations 
and all efforts to legislate wretchedness out of the well-groomed trujillista 
fief. Notwithstanding the high-sounding prohibitions of the Trujillo Labor 
Code, barefooted children sell newspapers and lottery tickets late at 
night in the city streets. And tourists are accosted in front of restaurants, 
theaters and other places of entertainment by children who repeatedly 
plead: "Gimme fi cen" 

The truth is that this situation is not the sad plight of a few remnants 
of an ignorant lower class incapable of assimilating progress. Except for 
the few rich who daily get richer while they enjoy the good graces of 
"the Big One," in the Dominican Republic today the poor get poorer 
and the gulf between grows larger. Caught in the trap of high prices and 
scant incomes the salaried urban middle class the clerks, some pro- 
fessionals and most heads of Government departments whose pay checks 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 168 

are sometimes mortgaged three months in advance lives a precarious life, 
always in the grip of money lenders and grocery creditors. 

Outside the cities conditions are much worse. A few minutes' ride be- 
yond the capital city limits will show there is not much real or fake prog- 
ress. It the tourist is not lost in contemplation of the gorgeous Dominican 
landscape, he cannot miss on both sides of the road the miserable dirt- 
floor huts in which Dominicans have lived since ancient times. Nor will he 
fail to notice the hundreds of undernourished children running naked with 
their bloated bellies. 

The unbelievably poor live side-by-side with the astoundingly rich. The 
literate live side-by-side with those who can neither write nor read. The 
assessment of $226 per capita income, even if correct, may not mean 
much in a country where wealth is concentrated in so very few hands. (A 
recent banking statistic shows that seven accounts representing the 0.9% 
of the total number of accounts make a 27.54% of the total amount of 
deposits.) Were it possible to subtract the huge wealth of the TrujiUo fam- 
ily and divide the rest of the national income among the remaining mem- 
bers of the Dominican population, there is no doubt that the per capita 
income would be reduced by perhaps as much as $150. Moreover, total 
national income expressed in money terms is misleading since, unlike 
more economically advanced countries such as the United States, a con- 
siderable part of the economic activities, especially in the agricultural sec- 
tor, are carried on without the medium of money. A good part of the 
total national output of goods is never sold in the market for money. 

A better idea of the actual income of the average Dominican is afforded 
by the minimum wages officially set by the Government agency in charge 
of such matters. The level of salaries for unskilled labor still varies be- 
tween $26 and $78 a month in those industries and occupations covered 
by social legislation. (The labor code provisions are not applicable to 
farms with less than ten workers nor are they enforced at the sugar mills 
owned by Trujillo.) Notwithstanding a labor code provision setting forth 
the principle of "equal payment for equal work," women are still paid 
lower wages than men. There are occupations in which the females are 
still paid from 90 cents to $1 for an eight-hour work day. And it is pos- 
sible to hire either a maid or a cook for $15 to $20 a month. In an upper 
bracket a good bi-lingual stenographer may be employed for $150 a 
month. This of course is a far cry from the not so distant days when a 
dairyman declared before the Minimum Wage Commission that as late as 
December 1945 he paid to his peones 30 cents a day plus food. 

In the meantime the price level in the Dominican Republic is the same 
when not higher as in large American cities such as New York. The 
average Dominican, depending on a few staples for his daily diet, is be- 
wildered when he goes to the market and is asked to pay 84 cents for a 


dozen eggs. In a country that still depends on kerosene to light more than 
half Its homes, people are forced to pay 3 1 cents a gallon. Low-grade gas- 
oline is 43V2 cents a gallon in Ciudad Tmjillo (higher inland), a fact 
which, coupled with the fact that a Icense plate costs $180 a year, ac- 
counts for the low number of cars. 

It is miraculous the way in which middle-class housewives make ends 
meet when they have to pay from 14 to 17 cents for a pound of rice, the 
basic staple of Dominican diet, 15 cents for a pound of refined sugar, and 
17 cents for a pound of beans. A pound of fish costs 45 cents and Grade B 
meat sells for 85 cents a pound. Better meat is unavailable outside of the 
tourist hotels and large restaurants, because the best quality beef is ex- 
ported by the Trajillo monopoly. The price of a pound of lard is 44 cents 
and the consumer must pay 52 cents for a pound of the only available 
edible grease: peanut oil. A package of domestic cigarettes properly 
branded Benefactor costs 40 cents. Whenever bought outside the black 
market, American cigarettes cost 85 cents a package. To emphasize the 
plight of the average city dweller, it only remains to point out that a small 
modest unfurnished three-room apartment rents in Ciudad Trujillo from 
$90 to $120 a month. 

Expert opinion to the contrary, low salaries have not acted as a de- 
terrent for inflation. Extravagant Government spending in unproductive 
public works such as the $40 million World Fair and the luxurious living 
of high Government officials and other members of the upper classes, have 
fed the inflationary trends as much as in places where the wages of or- 
ganized labor contribute to the rise of salaries. Dominicans, unlike people 
in democratic countries, must suffer in silence the steady mounting of 
the cost of living. 

Trujillo's monopolistic practices, the lack of any new substantial for- 
eign investments and the withdrawal of large amounts of foreign capital 
during the last four years, the swollen bureaucracy, the complex taxes 
(many of which cost more to collect than they bring in) and the immense 
budgets have begun to catch up with the economy. At the end of 1955 
an economic slow-down was clearly apparent, so much in fact that the 
Government operations were momentarily affected at the beginning of 
1956. With characteristic rathlessness Trujillo promptly resorted in Feb- 
ruary of that year to Ms favorite method for balancing the budget sal- 
aries were slashed, personnel reduced. No one knows how many people 
were discharged from Government departments but their number must 
have been considerable because the Government in order to insure the 
official agency in charge of loans against a big loss felt itself compelled 
to allow one-month severance pay to the fired employees to be turned 
over in payment of their debts to the Monte de Piedad. 

Dominicans had to swallow in silence the bitter medicine. Fortunately 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 170 

for the rest of the people, this stopgap measure seemed to be enough to 
save the day for the Government. Clouds were further dispelled by a new 
injection of foreign exchange pumped into the country by cash crops. At 
the end of 1956 the price of sugar bounced up to its highest level since 
the Korean War and coffee and cocoa held up on their own heights. As a 
result, the crisis was soon past and by the month of August, 1957, it was 
possible for the regime to announce officially that trade and production 
figures for the first six months of the year presaged the most prosperous 
twelve-month period in the history of the Dominican Republic. 

Riding the wave of its greatest economic boom, the Dominican Re- 
public shows nonetheless a strange patchwork of economic and social 
contrasts. Engrossed in its eye-pleasing programs of urban public works 
the Government has neglected to employ its revenues in more productive 
projects of social improvement to combat poverty and backwardness. 

On the other hand, stifled by the enormous growth of the ever-expand- 
ing public economy, private enterprise is lagging far behind. Tax-ridden 
and strictly controlled, the private sector of the Dominican economy does 
not dare to make a move without previously receiving the go-ahead signal 
from the Government authorities. Depending on the regime for the allo- 
cation of their resources, the leaders of private industry have let many op- 
portunities pass beyond recall. 

The dependency of private business on the Government is not totally 
unjustified. Many an enterprising businessman has been ruinously forced 
out of business for trespassing into a field exploited or coveted by the 
Benefactor. Moreover, credit facilities are almost monopolized by the three 
existing Government-owned banks (only two other banks and they are 
Canadian operate in the country), which with the exception of the 
Central Bank supposedly conduct business along the lines of traditional 
private credit institutions. However, the Banco de Re$erva$ and the Banco 
de Cr&dito Agricola e Industrial, with combined assets of over $200 mil- 
lion, have deviated from their avowed purpose of alleviating the problem 
of inadequate credit facilities in the country and have turned into instru- 
ments of Trujillo's control over the economic, social and political life of 
the people. 

Behind their businesslike fronts the Government banks cover up one of 
the most unscrupulous systems of political blackmail ever conceived. The 
Government banks are run by politically minded, rubber-stamp boards 
of directors, whose members are appointed by the President of the Re- 
public. These boards are empowered with authority to steer the national 
credit policies, but in practice they limit themselves to carry out directives 
handed out by the Benefactor or a group of his closest aides. Credit ap- 
plications are approved or rejected not only on the basis of their merits 
but in accordance with the applicant's political credit-rating with the se- 


cret police. Once the credit is granted it is always used as a weapon to 
keep debtors within bounds of political subservience. 

No wonder business prospects look gloomy, especially for those en- 
gaged in small retail trade. The curtailment of the free flow of trade has 
brought about a marked fall in retail sales which in turn has forced many 
merchants, large and small, to resort to desperate measures to get rid 
of thek accumulating inventories. Newspaper columns have been full 
of advertisements of baratillos (special sales), something to which Do- 
minican businessmen traditionally resort whenever faced with the threat 
of a business recession. 1 The same columns have been reporting a larger 
number of business failures than usual, particularly in the interior. And, 
more significant still, is the fact that during September and October busi- 
nessmen of all sections of the country were invited to mysterious special 
conferences at the National Palace with the Secretary of State Without 
Portfolio, Virgilio Alvarez Pina. 

The rosy picture is blurred as well by the fact that there is all too evi- 
dent a tendency within unskilled groups of laborers to go back to low- 
productivity occupations. An exceedingly high number of people are now 
engaged in the sale of lottery tickets, street peddling and boot blacking, 
which in any Latin American country is the first sign of impending eco- 
nomic trouble. To dispel rumors spreading out of the country to the effect 
that Dominican workers were having a tough time, the Government an- 
nounced, through its Secretary of Foreign Affairs on September 24, 1957, 
that currently "unemployment was at only one-tenth of one per cent of 
the population; the salary index at 348.9 and the general price index 
at 235.5, using 1945 as a base year." 

That the Government statistics give a false picture is proved by the 
growing official concern with the problem of unemployment. During the 
last year several official bureaus of employment have been opened through- 
out the country and all jobless people are under obligation of registering 
there with indication of their names, trades and addresses. It could be, how- 
ever, that, as many of Trujillo's detractors say, these bureaux have noth- 
ing to do with unemployment and are in reality recruiting centers of forced 
labor for the Big One's sugar plantations. According to these accounts, 
whenever it is necessary the police round up city unemployed and after 
convicting them of vagrancy pack them off to work in the sugar mills. 

Recently, moreover, newspapers have printed official notices advising 
foreigners that prior to securing employment they must obtain a special 
card issued by the Government. The Governor of the National District, 
where the capital city is located, periodically prints advertisements and 

^In a country where there is practically one season the whole year there Is hardly 
the need for a change of styles or for the easing off of last season's inventories at the 
end of the summer or winter. 

TRUJELLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 172 

makes statements to the press "inviting" farmers who have lately mi- 
grated to the capital in great numbers seeking salaried employment to 
go back to their former places, lest the authorities punish them for viola- 
tion of the official regulations forbidding countrymen to settle in cities 
without a Government permit. 

In addition to these disturbing factors, there are further proofs to show 
that Trujillo's ill-conceived economic programs have caused many social 
dislocations and have created added hardships, particularly for the white- 
collar workers. Usury is rampant and people pay the highest rates of in- 
terest known to any Western country. Money lenders have sprung up ap- 
parently from nowhere and even the Government has embarked on the 
business of lending money to its own employees. The Monte de Piedad, 
a government-owned glorified pawn shop, bails the government labor force 
out of economic difficulties at the interest rate of three per cent per 
month 36% a year. Collateral for the loan is the employee's next-month 
salary which is sent directly to the Monte by the National Treasurer. The 
Government interest rates, however, are not the highest in force. Accord- 
ing to a letter to the editor printed in the January 3, 1956, issue of El 
Caribe, the prevailing rates of interest vary between ten and twenty per 
cent monthly. These, of course, are illegally collected, but by Act of Con- 
gress the finance houses are authorized to charge, for loans up to $500, 
a legal rate of four per cent monthly. For mortgages and other com- 
merical transactions the Dominican Civil Code decrees an interest of 12% 
annually. Clients of the large banking firms still can get money at rates 
varying between four and a half and seven per cent annually. 

This seemingly contradictory maze of evidence is what makes risky 
any type of prediction about the future course of Dominican economy. It 
would be utterly ridiculous to deny that Trujillo has put forward some 
strenuous and imaginative efforts to raise the standards of productivity 
of the country. All things considered, and without leaning backwards to 
indulge in any wishful thinking on whether the country would have been 
better or worse off without Trujillo, it must be admitted that Trujillo's 
long tenure of power is marked by some constructive fiscal, monetary and 
economic reforms but also by a perilous concentration of wealth and 
means of production in the hands of a few greedy individuals. 


views of the role of education within an authoritarian system of govern- 
ment nevertheless constitute a contribution to the political philosophy of 
totalitarian dictatorship. 

As conceived by Trujillo, the goal of education is to provide the means 
of subduing people into meaningless conformism. This idea that the 
proper aim of the school is to prepare the masses for blind acceptance of 
the propaganda line of the clique in power it could be defined as educa- 
tion for tyranny is by no means the invention of the Benefactor. This 
conception, which reduces education to a simple political prop, is shared to 
a large extent by almost aH contemporary totalitarian regimes, especially 
those behind the Iron Curtain, Yet, in framing the actual machinery for 
its implementation few rulers have exceeded the cunning and insight 
shown by the Generalissimo. 

Unlike the classical Latin caudillo, who for the perpetuation of his 
power relied largely upon the ignorance of his subjects and therefore 
feared the effect of education upon the dark masses, Trujillo has exhibited 
a perceptive understanding of the possibilities of education as a vehicle of 
political control. looking toward Europe, beyond the jungle of Latin 
American politics, the Generalissimo found that contemporary fascist and 
communist dictatorships had shattered the delusion that education and ex- 
pertise make those who acquire them proof against self-deception or po- 
litical prejudice. Very often, by blunting natural common sense, education 
actually increases gullibility. 

Studying totalitarian systems of thought-control, Trujillo learned how to 
use educational devices on the largest possible scale to strengthen Ms 
regime. Moreover, in the process of taking over and adapting totalitarian 
conceptions of education to the conditions of his own country, "the Chief* 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 174 

made a few improvements. While in other countries the systematic glorifica- 
tion of every achievement of the regime is guided by the desire to per- 
petuate an idea, however wrong it may be, in the Dominican Republic 
it is ruled almost exclusively by considerations of egotism, self-interest 
and selfish attachment to power and wealth on the part of the absolute 

To a people like the Americans, who regard universal education as a 
necessary basis for democracy, the fact that Trujillo is building innumer- 
able schools and has passed laws requiring compulsory school attendance 
for children over seven years of age, may possibly mean that despite Tru- 
jillo the country is undergoing a healthy change toward democratic pro- 
cedures. This is an opinion shared by such a keen observer of the Latin 
American scene as Professor Dexter Perkins (no Trujillo lover), who 
expresses it in The United States and the Caribbean. 

After giving credit to Trujillo for showing "much interest in the schools 
of the country," Perkins asserts that at the present time "there is a dis- 
gusting amount of servile praise of the dictator in the public schools." So 
far so good, but then Perkins errs in his interpretation when he says that 
"this is a very different thing from the exaltation of a system, and it would 
be fairer to say that President Trujillo, by his extension of a system of 
public instruction, is preparing the way for the downfall of the kind of 
regime he represents than to regard him as the founder of the Fascist 
state, or as the embodiment of the Fuehrer principle." 

The concept of Trujillo as a passing Latin dictator without roots in the 
past or projections into the future and preparing his own undoing by the 
education of his people is not corroborated by facts. To begin with, the 
Benefactor is perhaps stronger today than ever before and seems to be 
very much a permanent fixture of Dominican politics. 

Education does not seem to be conducting the people toward democ- 
racy. Under Trujillo its sacred purpose of enlightening has been perverted 
and it is being employed to foster among people who are taught to read 
propagandist text books a new myth of Trujillo as a God-given blessing. 

A man who does not want to leave judgment to posterity is impatient 
lest his self-praise be lost for lack of a literate people. Thus, Trujillo has 
urged upon his followers the necessity of helping other people to become 
literate. "No demonstration of support or praise will be as highly gratify- 
ing to me this year (1955)," said he, "as the cooperation which may be 
given me in order that every single Dominican, whether from the cities 
or the most distant villages, may learn to read and write and may receive 
the benefits of that basic education which will make him fit to participate 
actively in our public affairs with a keen awareness of his constitutional 
rights and duties." 

Under the prodding of Trujillo, aU those associated with him must 


show their friendship by undertaking the task of teaching other persons 
how to read and write. "If each one/* pointed out the Benefactor, "re- 
solves to contribute in some way to the success of this far-reaching cam- 
paign against illiteracy which is about to be launched in order that every 
single Dominican may read the words of the anthem where the glories 
of our land are sung and follow the prayers through which the blessing of 
the Almighty are beseeched, I am sure that we will then be able to realize 
fully the ideal to which I have dedicated myself this year which has been 
named after me by a thankful people: to conquer illiteracy and wipe it 
out entirely from this new nation." 

Why he waited twenty-five years to launch an all-out war on illiteracy 
Trujillo did not explain. Nor did he indicate that the national anthem he 
was referring to was at the time undergoing a thorough re-writing by Ms 
own private secretary in order to include his feats in it. Nevertheless, the 
campaign was launched under the name of "Trajfflo Literacy Program." 
By Government orders all employers canvassed their workers to find out 
which ones were illiterate and thereupon were asked, on a voluntaryor- 
else basis, to install in their plants, or at least to pay for them, anti-illiter- 
acy units. 1 

The current emphasis on education has reached a point now where 
people are being compelled to learn how to read and write, even if they 
don't want to. 

Whereas in 1930 there were only 526 schools of all kinds, with 50,800 
pupils, at present 4,419 schools are functioning with a registration of 
423,424 students. In addition, 289,249 persons are attending anti-illiter- 
acy centers. The current budget for education alone is approximately $10 
million, an amount, according to the Foreign Minister, Porfirio Herrera 
Baez, "equivalent to the total national budget in 1930." Comparisons are 
always odious and this one must be particularly hateful to the Benefactor, 
but without as much fanfare the neighboring island of Puerto Rico, many 
times smaller than Santo Domingo, and with a population slightly larger, 
spends two and a half times that sum for the same purpose. 

Without denying the great progress in the way of carrying out a full- 
fledged educational program, it seems that in the Dominican Repub- 
lic the most substantial advance has been made in the field of statistics. 
Many ciphers are released to show the annual reductions in the rate of 

1 One of TrajUlo's habits is that of assessing businesses for civic improvements in 
their immediate area, in addition to their normal tax obligations. So, when in prepa- 
ration for the festivities of the 24-month long "Year of the Benefactor of the Father- 
land 9 * the public lighting of Ciudad Trujillo was improved, the full cost of the project 
fell upon the merchants and landowners of each neighborhood. Similarly, many shops 
and offices in the downtown zone were requested to put up electric signs. Upon each 
inaugural ceremony the local press gave credit for the improvements to the "genius 
of the Generalissimo.** 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 176 

illiteracy, the growth of schoolroom facilities, the extent of the welfare 
programs for students (a free breakfast of chocolate and bread in some 
urban institutions), the extension of the curricula and other minor ac- 
complishments. Little is said in official documents of the acute shortage of 
teachers and the almost insuperable problem of persuading teachers to 
dedicate their lives to rural education. With the help of these Government 
statistics published by the Department of Education, Murray Kempton 
calculated for the New York Post that for 20 years, up to 1956, "the 
Trujillo government had been reducing illiteracy at a rate of 1.3 per cent 
a year." Furthermore, in 1956 after years of intense activity 45 per 
cent of the people still could not write and read. Predicting, however, an 
early triumph of the crusade against ignorance for which the Benefactor 
had asked the active support of even those who do not share his "polit- 
ical philosophy either because they have been unable or unwilling to rise 
to the level of my patriotic ideals," the Minister of Education asserted 
that in five years the illiteracy rate would be no higher than 18 per cent. 

Lost in this maze of ciphers and press releases, few people were prob- 
ably aware of the fact that the year when the Generalissimo made his re- 
sounding pledge to teach every Dominican to "read the words of the 
anthem where the glories of our land are sung" a slash in the appropria- 
tion of the national budget for education took effect. In his message to 
Congress about the 1956 budget brother Hector made a terse announce- 
ment of the reduction without superfluous explanations or even a word 
of regret. The amount of the cut was not stated, but a significant fact 
was that in the same message the "president" reported an increase in mil- 
itary expenses. 

Puzzling contradictions such as this come to the surface, without caus- 
ing any embarrassment to the regime. Without a free press, they are soon 
buried under a new pile of fresh optimistic statistics. 

But even if the Dominican Government spends three times more in 
arms than in education, instruction is still free and theoretically compul- 
sory. Each year, at the beginning of the new courses the authorities put 
on an all-out drive to enforce the laws on public instruction. For a few 
weeks attendance in classes is fair, then it rapidly declines. 

Various are the reasons for the high incidence of truancy. The main one, 
however, has an economic basis. Barents, who themselves in most cases 
have had no education, will not force their children to attend school, be- 
cause they believe it is more important to have them at work in the fields 
or selling lottery tickets and newspapers. For people who have to work 
hard during the day in order to eat in the evening, five or six hours a 
day in a schoolroom seems a sheer waste of time. 

In addition, other reasons for the lack of appeal of the educational 
program may be found in its consistent efforts to mold oncoming gen- 


erations to the trujillista creed, Students in all grades are taught that 
Trajillo knows nothing but wisdom, sponsors only benevolence and Is 
infallible. They are thoroughly indoctrinated in the single-purpose prin- 
ciple that loyalty to TrujiUo (whose person is identified with that of the 
Fatherland as its Father and Benefactor) comes before love of family and 
home. As part of the brain-washing, the Generalissimo's personal flag (a 
complicated pattern of five stars mingled with the blue, white and red 
of the national emblem) flies in each school beside the Dominican flag 
and students of all ages are employed to swell the crowds at political ral- 
lies, church ceremonies and other "civic gatherings'* in homage to "the 
Big One." 

The hero-worshiping cult of Trujillo's personality is the left motif of 
national education. As Murray Kempton pointed out, "another fruit of 
learning, unmentioned but hardly objectionable to the old man, is the 
opportunity, even the compulsion, to read about all his glories." 

The amount of printed material on the life and achievements of the 
Benefactor in use in the schools is enormous. The authors of the majority 
of school texts be it mathematics, geography, hygiene, cooking or his- 
tory undertake to prove that the TrujiUo regime is the most truly demo- 
cratic of all forms of government. Starting with the premise that the Gen- 
eralissimo is a man of genius the incarnation of the nation's soul they 
maintain that at each moment he perceives through Ms matchless gift of 
divination the popular will and wastes no time in turning his absolute 
power to its immediate fulfillment. Sometimes the authors go a step 
farther, and assert that "the Chief* forecasts the popular will before it 
takes form, thus making unnecessary its formulation by the people. And 
it is at times written that Trajillo knows better than the people them- 
selves what they want or what they ought to have. Thus it is not up to 
the people to think at alL 

For example, the alphabet is learned in public schools in a "civic 
primer** whose author is "the Chief 9 himself. A few sentences of this 
"primer," taken at random, offer the best illustration of the manner in 
which the school is utilized as breeding ground for informers and other 
future professionals in denunciation. "The President works unceasingly 
for the happiness of his people," reads one. "It is he who maintains peace, 
supports the schools, builds the roads, protects all forms of labor, helps 
the farmers, favors industry, keeps up and improves the harbors, sup- 
ports the hospitals, encourages learning, and organizes the army for the 
protection of all law-abiding citizens. 

"If you should find in your home a man who wishes to disturb order, 
see that he is handed over to the police. He is the worst of evildoers. Crim- 
inals who have murdered a man or stolen something are in prison. The 
revolutionary who plots to kill as many as he can and steal everything 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of ttie Caribbean 178 

he can lay Ms hands on, your property and that of your neighbors he is 
your worst enemy," 

Still another paragraph: "Peace is the greatest benefit we can have. 
We should sustain it by our conduct as peaceful men and women and 
by prosecuting those who try to end it. 

"You should see in every revolutionist an enemy of your life and 
property. In a time of disorder there is no protection nor security. War 
among brothers is the worst calamity the Republic has suffered." 

This primer has been in use in Dominican schools for twenty-five years 
and is the most circulated text-book in the country. Millions of copies 
have been printed at Government expense and freely distributed not only 
among children but also among farmers and urban laborers. 

There is another book whose reading is compulsory in the schools 
Mrs. Trujillo's Moral Meditations. Teachers are supposed to offer it as 
one of the best examples of national literature, and as a work of moral 
philosophy that has earned universal acclaim. For the glorification of these 
literary efforts, the regime has instituted "Books Day," to be celebrated 
every year. On this occasion, as stressed by La Nation, on April 25, 1956, 
every school has to prepare a special program intended to bring to its 
pupils the benefits of outstanding examples of Dominican literature, such 
as the writings of Tnijillo and his wife. 

The brain-washing operation continues on Mother's Day, Father's 
Day, Independence Day, and so forth. Then homage is paid to different 
members of the Trujillo family. On Mother's Day, for example, school 
children are instructed to write little essays not on the virtues of mother- 
hood in general but on the exemplary ones of Trujillo's mother. Dona 
Julia Molina, 

Indoctrination efforts do not stop in grade schools. They occur on higher 
educational levels, including the University of Santo Domingo. Under 
Trujillo the ancient Dominican University has been thrown into a black 
pit of moral degradation, professional mediocrity and academic serfdom. 

Quartered in a $5-million housing project known as "University City" 
the University of Santo Domingo has made fantastic material progress dur- 
ing the Era of Trujillo and now boasts in its modernistic buildings equip- 
ment and gadgets of the most advanced model. Its academic standards 
(though low) are good enough to mass-produce lawyers, physicians, den- 
tists, engineers and architects ready to mind their own business and make 
an honest dollar in their professions. 

Ever since 1934 when the faculty of the University bestowed upon 
the Generalissimo an honorary degree in all its disciplines (the only person 
to hold such an honor), the University has been an honorary degree mill 
with an exceedingly fast turnover. From Nicholas Murray Butler, President 
of Columbia University, who traveled to the Dominican Republic to re- 


ceive Ms honorary degree in the middle thirties, to Vice President Richard 
M. Nixon, who received Ms in 1955, a host of distinguished American cit- 
izens have been honored by the trujilllsta University. The most recent 
ceremony of this kind was held, according to the monthly magazine of the 
Dominican Embassy in Washington, D.C., to award the degree of Doctor 
Honoris Causa in the Faculties of PMlosophy and Law to two American 
legislators: Senator George A. Smathers, of Florida* and Representative 
Kenneth B. Keating, of New York. Equal honors have been awarded to 
the representatives of the foreign governments who during their tour of 
duty in Santo Domingo have shown a "friendly"' attitude toward Trujillo. 
Because in the fulfillment of his high office he "earned the abiding affec- 
tion of the Dominican people* 5 the University thus honored, before depar- 
ture, former U.S. Ambassador William T, Pheiffer. 

As a professor of the University (a title awarded to Mm despite the 
known fact that he never set foot in a school room higher than the ele- 
mentary grades) , "the Big One" feels special affection for the University. 
He has chosen the enlightened center of Dominican Mgh learning as a 
suitable sounding board for the deliverance by important visiting scholars, 
diplomats and intellectuals of highly complimentary speeches and lectures 
about himself. When the former Brazilian Ambassador, Paulo Germane 
Hasslocher, delivered Ms much-translated eulogy of the Benefactor, the 
latter sat on the rostrum, his face beaming, during the hour-long exercise in 
genuflection by the official representative of a great nation. 

Outside these activities the University of Santo Domingo, unlike its 
counterparts all over Latin America, is a quiet place. Professors as well 
as pupils seem to have been cast in a pattern of silence, subservience and 

Even professors talk in wMspers during the class periods as if ashamed 
of being heard. And there are reasons to believe they should, since on 
certain subjects such as Mstory and philosophy the Rector's office supplies 
the professors with directions for lectures prepared in accordance with 
the current party-line. Thereupon student spies are planted in the class- 
rooms to insure that the professor follows without dangerous deviations the 
official outline. "I can always tell who they are/' said one professor. "They 
take notes at the wrong times." 

Controversial subjects are avoided, even subjects so alien to partisan 
politics as the personality and character of the Founding Fathers of the 
Republic or the life and work of the great Latin American scholar Eu- 
genio Maria de Hostos, who in the last decades of the nineteenth century 
introduced modern methods of teaching. 

The case of Hostos deserves attention. After being a hero to Dominicans 
of the past four generations, Hostos, by Trujfllo's order, is undergoing 
downgrading. For reasons yet unknown El Caribe opened in the middle 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 180 

of 1956 3 OB suggestion from the Benefactor, a symposium designed to 
revaluate Hostos' role in Dominican culture. After the first answers were 
printed it was obvious that the regime was involved in a move to destroy 
the high reputation of the revered scholar. A few of his remaining disci- 
ples were selected to tear to shreds the glory that surrounds Hostos' name. 

Cynically Dominican university students say that they don't want to be 
heroes like their Cuban counterparts. To hide his inner fear and anxiety 
the Dominican student grows an outer shell of sneering indifference, which 
seemingly makes him insensible to the normal currents of life that else- 
where renders youth rebellious and idealistic. 

Today students are too young to have known anything but life under 
Trujillo or too well indoctrinated by years of extolling the excellences of 
the Benefactor or too scared to engage in the risky game of political 
opposition. Yet the Government does not relax its vigilance, Trujillo 
knows that the Latin American universities are often hotbeds of demo- 
cratic and other radical ideas and he does not want such a thing to hap- 
pen in his own. Stringent security regulations are ruthlessly enforced and 
every student is under an around-the-clock surveillance by fellow stu- 
dents, wardens, prefects, professors and outside informers. "The Uni- 
versity of Santo Domingo is unique for two things," wrote Murray Kemp- 
ton. "It is the oldest in this hemisphere and certainly the only university 
in the West where an applicant needs a certificate of good conduct from 
the local police chief for admission." 

The last vestiges of intellectual freedom gone, Dominican students* 
favorite activity appears to be that of paying homage to Trujillo and plac- 
ing around his neck costly trinkets such as the "Collar of Democracy," a 
diamond-studded jewel they gave the Benefactor in 1951. 

This, however, was not always the case. Occasionally, the Benefactor has 
had more than his normal share of trouble with the students. In 1930, 
the University took the leadership in the fight for Freedom and soon 
became known as one of the main foci of opposition to military rule* 
Through their mouthpiece the Asociacion National de Estudiantes Uni~ 
versitarios, or ANEU as it was known, the students took a firm and at 
times intrepid stand against the trigger-happy storm troopers of the mil- 
itary regime. 

Fearing that student opposition might become the spark that set off the 
feared libertarian explosion, and aware that the history of Latin American 
nations is dotted with incidents in which apparently minor student move- 
ments have grown into full fledged revolutions, Trujillo decided to crush 
at gun-point the ANEU-organized political rallies of protest in the capital. 

Shortly thereafter ANEU was dissolved, and those of its members who 
stood finn in their opposition found it increasingly haid to earn a liveli- 


hood. The overwhelming pressure upon these people was not released 
until they recanted or left the country. Measures were then taken that 
were designed to prevent open student opposition happening again. 

Knowing that, notwithstanding the fact that many of the students en- 
gaged themselves in political activities out of sincere idealism, there was 
a great majority of crackpots and conscious or unconscious opportunists 
hankering for public attention, Trujillo trained his big guns on the latter, 
and then tried to seduce them with offers of government jobs and the hint 
that profitable careers were in store for them. This became known as the 
"sweet approach." 

The balance in favor of Trujillo's methods either the terror or the so- 
called "sweet approach" is a precarious one, so precarious in fact that 
in 1945 a simple democratic wind was enough to upset peace and quiet 
anew within the University. Under the influence of World War II and the 
democratic principles of the United Nations Charter an intense preoccupa- 
tion with political and social problems set upon University student circles. 
Under the guidance of a group of liberal-minded professors, such as Dr. 
Jose Antonio Bonilla Atiles, then Dean of the Law School, Dr. Jose 
Horacio Rodriguez and Dr. Moises de Soto of the Law School, and others 
whose names cannot be mentioned since they still live in the country, large 
groups of students with aspirations and democratic ideas had an oppor- 
tunity to get together. The newly created University Theater afforded the 
opportunity for meetings outside the stroke of the secret police ax. During 
rehearsals the bases were laid for what a few months later evolved as a 
powerful underground movement. 

As a result, the clandestine movement of Juventud Revolutionaries was 
born. The aim of this organization was to bring to the Dominican people 
a democratic form of government. The movement did not last long inside 
the University, being soon suppressed in ruthless fashion. 

Its existence, nevertheless, brought about new, more stringent methods 
of control over the University. Professors as well as students are since 
then under fresh suspicion. A cloud of silence rests upoa them. 


Republic have there been so many works printed, busts cast, pictures 
painted and music composed than at present. Yet this vast literary and 
artistic output has failed to furnish the world a single work of excellent, 
enduring quality. 

The absence of social liberties, moral tolerance and creative freedom, 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 182 

coupled with twenty-seven years of censorship, propaganda and terror, 
have dried up the sources of Dominican imagination and have thrown a 
gifted, sensitive people into an abyss of collective negation. 

Literary and artistic performances lack spontaneity and dignity. The 
only written or spoken expressions of ideas upon which intellectuals may 
safely indulge are those in praise of the Benefactor or in denigration of his 
enemies. The most exalted examples of literary acumen are those compar- 
ing the Generalissimo with the lightning, the mountaintop, the sun, the 
eagle, volcanic lava, Pegasus, Plato and God. "He (Trujillo), like God, 
created from nothing on the seventh day a splendid and brilliant Fair of 
the Peace and Brotherhood of the Free World," wrote in El Car'ibe, No- 
vember 8, 1955, the foremost Dominican philosopher Andres Avelino. 

Dominican intellectuals are frozen into dogmatism. Their horizons have 
been narrowed to such extent that they have grown to regard themselves 
unworthy of the social sciences and pay almost no heed to the humanities. 
Historical studies are preferred but this happens only because they afford 
either an escape from the present or an opportunity to make political hay 
out of distortions of the past intended to further current political interest. 
Thus, a lot of crypto-historic essays and more ambitious enterprises as well 
have received the accolade of the Dominican Academy of History, the super- 
censorship board. Blessed by the Academy there is in circulation a lot of 
historical trash, whose only merits is to follow with despicable subservience 
the party line as set in the National Palace. In the meantime some of the 
most valuable works on Dominican history are proscribed. Sunmer Welles* 
Naboth Vineyard, one of the most authoritative histories of the country, 
has not been read by more than a few score Dominicans. A Spanish trans- 
lation of this monumental history, printed some years ago by the publish- 
ing house of El Diario, of Santiago, was not allowed to circulate. It is said 
that Trujillo strongly objected to those revealing passages in which the 
author explains why the Americans were unable to outfit the Constab- 
ulary force with the right kind of officers. 

Fiction has become an almost forgotten genre. Intellectuals find little 
room for creative work of the kind necessary for good, uninhibited, satis- 
factory fiction. Short stories are sparsely published, but during the last 
fifteen years no more than three full length novels have been written and 
for that matter the last one to come out is only a fulsome, pseudo-his- 
torical profile of life under "the Chief." Its author, Pedro Verges Vidal, 
was a member of the dreaded corps of Inspectors of the Presidency. 

Poets always abundant in Latin America have not been extinguished, 
but they seem unable to turn out anything but worn-out cliches. Currently 
they spend a great deal of time concocting rhymes to sing the glories of 
the Generalissimo; an album with their best trujillista verses is in process 
of publication by the highest cultural center of the country, the Ateneo 


Domlnlcano. The poets have also given a share of their poetic lode to the 
cultural prowess of Mrs. Rafael L. Trajiilo, Si., as well as to the beauty 
and talents of her daughter Queen Angelita L As Time pointed out, "the 
No. 1 occupation of Dominican intellectuals is writing flowery tributes to 
the Genius of Peace, Hero of Labor and Paladin of Democracy." 

To reward the ceaseless efforts of the artificers of the written word Tru- 
jillo has established, in the manner of the American movie industry, his 
own "Oscars." These awards for excellence in artistic and literary fields 
are given the names of different members of the Trajillo family. There is, 
for example, the yearly Rafael L. Trujiilo Prize, which is bestowed upon 
the author of the best book, Dominican or foreign, dealing with any aspect 
of the "portentous work of government of the illustrious leader of the 
Dominican people." Other prizes, supposedly intended to foster the cul- 
tural advancement of the country, are awarded each year to the best polit- 
ical article, the most acclaimed literary work, the most important didactic 
book and the most outstanding volume of verses. Few Dominican intel- 
lectuals, however, have been considered worthy of the awards. In 1955 
the prizes of the contest for the best poems and hymns composed in honor 
of Queen Angelita large lumps of cash amounting to $25,000 went to a 
handful of prolific Spanish writers whose entries were counted by the 
score. And, in spite of the fact that the local output of political literature 
exceeds in quantity anything the wildest imagination could conceive, the 
award-winning press eulogy for 1956 was one written by TrujiUo's most 
consistent foreign admirer the Venezuelan historian and politician J. 
Penzini Hernandez. Originally printed in El Universal, Caracas, and later 
reprinted freely by the domestic press and as a joint paid advertisement 
placed in U.S. publications by the Dominican Press Society and the Domini- 
can Information Center, the prize article, entitled "Assault by Slander," is 
for tone and content one of the best examples of trujillista prose. 

Prizes are not the only means of promoting belles-lettres in the country. 
The Benefactor is a Maecenas who bountifully pays for books, pictures and 
symphonic scores. Young authors need only send "the Chief their songs 
of praise to see them in the public light. Newspapers notwithstanding the 
fact that while editor-in-chief of El Caribe I made an effort to deny pos- 
terity much of this sort of literature are under compulsion to give pro- 
tective shelter whatever their merits, to all written expressions of the 
art of pleasing the Benefactor. 

There are many examples, admiringly told by Trajillo's aides, which 
illustrate the various modes in which "the Chief" attends to the cultural 
needs of his people. According to a story recounted by a former Secre- 
tary of Education to Murray Kempton, once upon a time the Benefactor 
heard that the Dominican side of the frontier with Haiti was cluttered with 
citizens who did not even know the National Anthem. Upon receiving 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 184 

a frightful piece of news "the Big One" acted quickly. "I want musical in- 
struments in every school on the border. Go to the United States and buy 
25 Steinways" was the peremptory command of the Generalissimo. There- 
upon the Minister made the trip and brought back the pianos which, 
reportedly, were acquired for $5,000 apiece. The story, however, had an 
ending entirely different from that told by the Minister to Kempton. On 
the border there are not 25 music academies. The pianos were taken to 
the frontier, no doubt, but once there it was found they could not play by 
themselves. Since it was more difficult to find 25 pianists than an equal 
number of pianos, the latter were left to deteriorate in the battered school 
houses of the border. 

On another occasion the Generalissimo was informed that a new press 
officer of the American Embassy named Francis Townsend had published 
once, as a result of a collegiate interest, a volume of translations into 
English of the works of several Dominican poets. Trujillo was also told 
that the book was out of print, so he promptly directed El Caribe to 
publish, at Government expense, a new edition of Townsend's book. "The 
Chief ordered an adequate introduction to the volume by one of his 
aides, Otto Vega; the preface credited the enterprise to "the suggestion 
of that great leader and generous Maecenas who is Generalissimo Dr. 
Rafael L. Trapo." 

However, a minor difficulty had to be ironed out before publication. Dr. 
Townsend, unversed in the mysteries of Dominican politics at the time 
he made his selections, had included certain authors whose political ideas 
ran counter to those of the Benefactor. The "generous Maecenas" was in 
no mood to let appear in a book he was paying for the names of people 
who, however lofty their afflatus, were his enemies. Eliminated from the 
anthology, with or without Townsend's knowledge, were two poets of 
stature now living in exile. Carmen Natalia Martinez and Pedro Mir. 

Art exhibits, concerts and lectures in fine arts most of them under the 
Administration's sponsorship are daily occurrences, but all have a com- 
mon feature: a lack of the gaiety and spontaneity that mark artistic gath- 
erings everywhere else. The spiritless productions of artists and musicians, 
although at times flawless from a technical standpoint, show a strange 
frigidity and a lack, according to John Fischer, editor of Harper's, of the 
"exuberant artistic flowering, for instance, which is so notable a charac- 
teristic of the disheveled Haitians who occupy the other half of the island." 

Connected with Trujillo's boundless ambition to play an important role 
in the international field is the intensive use of cultural, historical and 
educational congresses which in rapid succession have been staged in the 
Dominican capital since 1956. Starting with the celebrated Congress of 
Catholic Culture held early in 1956 with the attendance of a host of 
prominent clergymen and laymen, each of these gatherings has been em- 


ployed as effective sounding boards for the international display and 
glorification of every achievement of the regime. 

In the presence of such notable figures of the Catholic World as Francis, 
Cardinal Spellman, TrujIHo has made use in these "cultural" gatherings of 
all known propaganda devices on the largest possible scale, to prostitute 
their avowed purposes in every way so that they may contribute to the 
strengthening of Ms regime. Many resolutions have been put through with 
the sole purpose of making the rest of the world swallow the regime's prop- 
agandist pap. Thus, the full Assembly of the Second Hispanic-American 
History Congress, held in October, 1957, approved, on the initiative of 
Dominican historian Cesar Herrera (a brother of Rafael Herrera, current 
editor of El Caribe) a resolution which condemns the activities of intellec- 
tuals who have betrayed the cause of Hispanidad in order to enter the ranks 
of international communism. 

According to a United Press dispatch Herrera asserted that the "arche- 
type of those subjects," with respect to the Dominican Republic, is the 
author of this book. "Ornes," said Herrera, "after proclaiming, in in- 
numerable articles published in El Caribe, Ms adhesion to Christian cul- 
ture and his rejection of the Marxist ideology, betrayed these principles 
and associated himself with Communism." 

It is totally consistent with Tmjillo's belief that the only non-Commu- 
nists are those who proclaim their devotion to his cause in a uniform way. 
For him a Communist is anyone who criticizes his regime. 

The truth is that like all dictators throughout history Trajillo is no 
friend of culture and education in their genuine sense. 

Intellectuals, under Trujillo, are still permitted to exist; but they are 
compelled to write the prescribed brand of literature. Trujillo has sup- 
pressed all independent manifestations of culture and learning in favor of 
a single official brand developed under the tutelage of the dominant clique. 
Intellectuals are under compulsion to direct their work to a single end 
the maintenance of the Generalissimo in power. 

In order to produce a perfectly uniform type of intellectual, the regime 
has taken firmly in hand during the years all artists and writers, especially 
members of the young generations, supervising them step by step, until 
the more useful and adaptable are finally enrolled in the trujillista ranks. 
The others, called "Unassimilables/' are suppressed and utterly destroyed 
morally if not physically. 

Initial intellectual surrender is no guarantee of survival. It is true that 
spineless intellectuals seem to have a place assured in Trujillo's realm as 
long as they behave in accordance with the capricious norms set by the 
regime, life for Dominican intellectuals is a succession of scares they 
fear to displease the master at the helm and, above all, they fear their 
talents may betray them into some expression of forbidden truth, some 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 186 

flash of candor, which may sound their death knell. Neither reputation 
nor brilliant work confers security. Distinction is all too often a sad prel- 
ude to extinction. 

Enclosing themselves in a sort of ivory tower a few intellectuals have 
been able to escape Trujillo's dominance inside the country; others, more 
fortunate, have left the country to try their wings where there still are 
open spaces. Those who remain in the country very rarely have been able 
to maintain anonymity. The hand of the dictatorship sooner or later 
reaches out and then comes the moment for the fateful choice. What is 
worse, while in retirement these passive rebels condemn themselves never- 
theless to intellectual sterility, since to publish a non-political work or not 
to mention Trujillo's name in an article, book or any other literary ex- 
ploit simply means suicide. It is not strange, therefore, that intellectual 
life, outside of shallow political moments, is sunk into a coma. 

This was not always the case. In the past Dominican writers, philos- 
ophers and poets have competed with distinction in the market place of 
ideas. Dominican were such revered figures of Latin American letters as 
Pedro Henriquez Urena, philosopher and philologist, Fabio Fiallo, poet, 
and Americo Lugo, historian. 

Young Henriquez Urena left the country during the American mili- 
tary occupation to settle in Cuba, Mexico and Argentina where he made 
a brilliant reputation. In 1930, at Trujillo's request, Henriquez went back 
to Santo Domingo. He accepted an appointment as head of national edu- 
cation and immediately set upon the task of bringing about much needed 
reforms of the educational system. Instead of opening new schools as 
Henriquez was advising, Trujillo chose to close them, giving as excuse 
the urgent need to stabilize the battered national budget. After months of 
fruitless efforts, Henriquez resigned his post (a crime Trujillo never for- 
gives a collaborator) and went back to his teaching job in an Argen- 
tinian University, where he died years later. 

So well-established was Henriquez' prestige all over Latin America that 
Trujillo did not dare to attack him openly while alive. Even after Hen- 
riquez' death Trujillo paid tribute to his memory, naming one of the 
buildings of the new University City after him. 

Yet one day the long-awaited opportunity to even the score showed it- 
self. In August, 1956, a Dominican lady, Flerida Nolasco, printed in El 
Caribe as part of a series a eulogistic piece on Henriquez Urena. The 
Benefactor himself, under the pen name of Lorenzo Ocumares (one of 
his favorite ones for signing anonymous letters to the newspapers), wrote 
a letter to El Caribe stating that although Henriquez had been a man of 
"great learning and an eminent figure in Latin American literature," those 
talents had been of no use to his own country. Then the writer went on to 
accuse the late scholar of taking advantage years back of Ms post as dSl- 


rector of Dominican education to plant "the sick seed of the Communist 
doctrine In the minds of student groups. 55 

Fablo Fiallo, a romantic poet of no small stature in Latin American 
letters, and a man who has been compared by French critics with figures 
of worldwide reputation like Tagore, had led a full and respected life until 
he clashed with Trujillo. 

During the American occupation FiaUo's writings and stand for the lib- 
erty of his country, brought him into conflict with the censorship regula- 
tions of the military. An article, whose language was particularly objected 
to by the Marines, was studded with expressions such as "martyrdom of 
the Fatherland," "chains," and u this cruel civilization which came to us 
through the back door with fixed bayonets in a dark night of deceit, sur- 
prise and cowardice. . . ." 

This was considered too much by the authorities and Fiallo was charged 
with two violations of the Executive Order prohibiting the setting forth 
of doctrines "tending" to incite the masses to "unrest, disorder and re- 
volt." Fiallo's ensuing trial and sentence to three years in prison by an 
American military court under the occupation status erupted into a cause 
celebre. "To most Americans," Knight wrote, "the 'poet patriot* was a 
passing headliner in the press, but Ms trial in 1920 made the Yankees 
about as loathsome as possible to the Latin peoples of the two hemi- 

The second time Fialo was thrown in jail things were different. Some- 
one had had the idea, early in 1931, of secretly distributing a handbill with 
a reprint of one of the poet's articles slashing the Dominican Quislings 
during the American occupation as the "catspaws of the foreign Invader 
prosperous in their new connection and sneering in their attitude toward 
the cruder days of independence/* 

Incensed by the obvious reference, and not knowing the identity of 
the real perpetrator of the profanation, "the Chief decided to make an 
example of the author. This time, however, no incensed protests were filed 
and unlike the days of the American occupation no photographs showing 
the handsome old man in stripes were smuggled out of the prison. Not 
even a mock trial was staged. Everything happened in a very private way 
and very few people, if any, knew outside the Dominican Republic what 
was going on. 

Upon release Fiallo was not hailed by an enthusiastic crowd at the 
prison's gates. Quite the contrary, people avoided him for fear of political 
contamination. His heart broken by the indifference, complacency and 
cowardice of his terrorized compatriots, the old poet died shortly after- 
ward. No posthumous homage was paid to him. 

Americo Lugo's story is perhaps sadder than Fiallo's. A colleague of 
Fiallo during the nationalistic campaigns of the American occupation pe- 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 188 

riod, Lugo was a genuine scholar, who had devoted his life to the study 
of Mstory. His prose, terse and brilliant, had honored many foreign pub- 
lications and Ms ability as a lawyer had given him fame and fortune. 
Already an old man, Lugo decided by the time Trujillo started his regime 
of terror to retire from public life. 

For years Lugo managed to steer his way out of political entanglements 
with Trujillo. The day came, however, when Trujillo thought it was time 
his feats were included in Dominican history books and naturally enough 
he wanted this done by the best talent available. 

Trujillo approached the old scholar with a frank offer to publish a his- 
tory with no strings attached. A contract was signed between the Govern- 
ment and Lugo and the latter set himself to the task. On January 26, 
1936, Trujillo let the cat out of the bag in a casual way, during a political 
speech in the small town of Esperanza some 150 miles from the capital. 
Reading the press reports, Lugo came upon the knowledge that in his ca- 
pacity as official historian, he has been chosen to write the "history of the 
past as well as the present." 

Lugo wasted no time. He wrote a lengthy letter to the Benefactor, flatly 
challenging his statement that he was an "official historian." The letter 
made also plain, in strong and dignified terms, that under no circum- 
stances was Lugo going to write any "history of the present." 

Lugo's letter, as can be imagined, was never printed by the Dominican 
press though there is evidence that it was sent to the newspapers by its 
author. Nevertheless hundreds of copies were circulated through under- 
ground channels. As a result the newspapers delivered smashing attacks 
upon the aging scholar, without revealing, of course, the real reasons. 
Congress promptly rescinded the contract and Lugo fell into the cate- 
gory of a "subversive." His house besieged by secret policemen, stripped 
of all his properties, through tax assessments and phony law suits, Lugo 
died a few years later. His last years were spent in isolation (no person 
would dare to visit his home) and poverty, but he stood his ground with 
real courage, facing indignities and humiliations without budging. He 
never gave in to Trujillo's pressure, with the result that his name is secretly 
revered by Dominicans as an exalted symbol of opposition. 



of any independent nation in the world. At present there are only three 
in Trujilloland. They have a combined circulation dailies and weeklies 
together of less than 45,000 copies. 

Startling as it seems, this stunted development is quite natural. Freedom 
of the press has not existed outside the statute books since the early days 
of 1930. "Its last manifestations in the electoral campaign of that year 
were stifled by terrorism, La 42 and the post-electoral arrests," wrote 
Jesus de Galindez in The Era of Trujillo. 

Nearly six years of almost unanimous vocal opposition to the over- 
thrown Vasquez regime, at the cost of heavy financial sacrifices, exhausted 
the newspapers' reserves of energy and capital. With perhaps the single 
exception of Listin Diario, the newspapers were on the verge of collapse 
in that year of 1930. Now, faced with the already mounting pressure of 
an expanding dictatorship, the press was too enfeebled to meet the chal- 
lenge and carry on. Soon Trujillo discovered how to profit from this 
dismal state of Dominican journalism. 

"The Chief found out that by paying lip service to the causes cham- 
pioned by the journalists it was relatively easy to win over to Ms side 
some honest but short-sighted editors. Where double-talk was not enough, 
more subtle means were employed. Government jobs, juicy official print- 
ing contracts up to that point monopolized by Listin Diario outright 
subsidies and bribes, mixed with an occasional threat, usually did the 
trick and assured the allegiance of the more "practical and realistic" 

Less than six months after taking power, Trujillo had been able to 
bribe, coerce or cajole into his service the biggest names of Dominican 
journalism. Those he could not reduce fast enough into submissiveness, 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 190 

were either thrown into jail, forced to leave the country, or murdered. 
Many a free-thinking editor came out from a short visit to Trajillo's dun- 
geons converted into an enthusiastic supporter. The story of Emilio Reyes 
illustrates the fate of the more stubborn ones who, regardless of Trujillo's 
efforts to coerce or corrupt them, stood up and fought. Editor of a small 
weekly and a man of deep-seated principles, Reyes insisted on continuing 
to write the truth as he saw it, despite ominous warnings from the local 
authorities. One day, after printing an article particularly critical of the 
Administration, Reyes was imprisoned in his home town of Azua. Where- 
upon it was announced that Reyes had been killed "while attempting to 
escape," as he was conducted under arrest to the capital. 

Among aE the papers Listin Diario took the longest to capitulate. At 
the time one of the oldest Latin American dailies, it had passed through 
its most glorious period during the days of the American military occu- 
pation. True then to the responsibilities of a free press, Listin conducted 
a courageous campaign for the restoration of the trampled-upon Domini- 
can liberties. Never a crusading newspaper, however, Listin soon after 
the American evacuation aligned itself with the most reactionary wing of 
the clique in power. For its unconditional almost slavish support of the 
Vasquez Administration, it became the center of bitter journalistic con- 
troversies, losing in the process much of its well deserved earlier prestige. 
Nonetheless, when Trujillo took power Listin still was the most influential 
Dominican newspaper. 

Associated as it was with the old landed aristocracy, Listin could not 
readily acknowledge "the Chiefs" glorious leadership. Its venerable col- 
umns were closed to the pack of hacks Trujillo was already supporting. 

Trujillo's tactics to dislodge Listin were simple enough. First, all print- 
ing contracts were withdrawn, and subsidies passed over in favor of other 
publications. Second, the dreaded thugs of La 42 were directed to assault 
the newspaper's quarters. (A member of the Pellerano family, owners of 
the daily, was murdered under mysterious circumstances by an alleged 
personal enemy.) 

Under the overwhelming power mustered by the new Administration, 
Listings resistance weakened (its opposition became nominal, tapered to 
a mere whisper) , but nothing short of all-out surrender would satisfy the 
Dictator. It was left to "the Chief to administer the coup de grace. Upon 
his orders the paper's publisher, Arturo Pellerano Sarda, was imprisoned. 
What happened next is a matter of conjecture. Shortly afterwards released, 
Pellerano announced almost two years in advance that he and his 
newspaper would support Trujillo's reelection at the ballot of 1934. There- 
after the regime could not find a more loyal ally than Listin. In reward, 
Trujillo channeled all the windfalls back to the paper and as a token of 
friendship made it, like all others, house organ and singer of Ms praises. 


Then followed a period of peaceful coexistence on Trujillo's terms, 
to be sure between the regime and the press. Dominican newspapers 
looked like TrujiMo's patrimony. The Benefactor's word was the publish- 
ers' gospel on what to print and whom to hire. 

Nevertheless, by 1939, the Generalissimo was itching to try out a paper 
of his own. During a trip abroad, someone "sold" Mm the idea that a 
publishing house was an exceedingly profitable venture. Why then should 
other people make the money he could easily pocket? 

With the help of a Chilean newspaperman, Daniel del Solar, whom he 
had met in the United States, TrajiHo set out to start a journalistic empire. 
Del Solar, however, was not to see the project materialize. Shortly before 
La Nation was ready to go to press with its first issue, he was uncere- 
moniously dropped from the scheme. A Dominican journalist, Rafael 
Vidal, took over as editor and publisher. 

La Nacion, the first Dominican newspaper printed on a rotary press, 
made its entrance on February 19, 1940. Being the first local daily to 
subscribe to the three big American news services. La Nation's pages 
were filled with world news, articles on current events, comics, pictures, 
sports and women's page features. Collaboration was solicited and even 
paid for. Even in its praises of the Benefactor the newcomer showed, at 
least in its initial stage, more restraint than its colleagues. 

Notwithstanding its technical excellency La Nation's reception fell 
short of enthusiastic. To make it a going concern there was needed some- 
thing more than high editorial quality. To fill the widening gap between 
steadily mounting expense and almost nonexistent revenue, Government 
advertisements were diverted toward the paper; businessmen were in- 
structed to patronize it to the exclusion of other media, and state em- 
ployees were forced to buy subscriptions. (So strictly were these rules 
enforced that there were instances of families receiving three and more 
issues.) This crushing economic pressure, ruthlessly applied under Tru- 
jillo's personal direction, promptly decimated the already thinning ranks of 
Dominican journalism. Reduced to only four in the capital (Listin Diario, 
La Opinion, Diario de Comercio and La Tribuna) , and two in the interior 
(La Information, of Santiago, and Diario de Macoris, of San Pedro de 
Macoris), even these remaining newspapers soon started to fold. 

The first casualties between 1940 and 1942 were La Tribuna, 
Diario de Comercio and Listin Diario. The former had never been much 
of a paper. Diario de Comercio was a subsidized sheet at the service of the 
Italian and German legations. (It closed right after Pearl Harbor, follow- 
ing the inclusion of its publishers in the American "black list.") Listin 
Diario >, however, was another thing. Although in its declining years it had 
evolved into a mouthpiece of foreign fascist groups, mainly of the Spanish 
Falange, Listings death was a sad event, not merely for what the mate- 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 192 

rial loss of such an old enterprise meant but also for what it had been 
before becoming a captive of vested interests and then of Trujillo's dic- 
tatorship. Whatever its journalistic sins or virtues were, the passing of 
Listin marked the final eradication of aE vestiges of a romantic era of 
Dominican journalism. 

La Opinion continued for a few years as La Nation's sole competitor 
in the capital. Founded as a magazine during the middle twenties by a 
French national, Rene de Lepervanche, this afternoon daily, unlike Listin, 
had never opposed Trajillo nor was so servile in its laudation of the Dic- 
tator. Considering the circumstances, it was quite a lively newspaper. 

Late in 1945, in the face of a particularly severe barrage of criticism 
originating in American liberal spheres, and what was even more inaus- 
picious in the usually restrained U.S. State Department, the Benefactor 
conceived a clever maneuver to extricate himself without risking an iota of 
his absolute power. Since most of the criticism was leveled at his tight 
control over the press, "the Chief" created a "free press" of his own. 

One day Trujillo's Secretary of the Presidency, Julio Vega Batlle, called 
upon the Editor of La Opinion, Jose Ramon Estella (a Basque married 
to the daughter of the late Lepervanche) and solicited his cooperation to 
a Government plan for a "moderate opposition campaign." 1 The Ad- 
ministration, explained Vega Batlle, wished to contrive such a campaign 
and was willing to subsidize the editor personally for his collaboration. 

Fearing a trap, Estella did not accept the proposal right away. He re- 
quested an appointment with Trujillo himself for further discussion. At 
the ensuing conference granted without delay the Benefactor blandly 
asked the editor to go ahead with the plan as expounded by his aide. 
Estella made it clear he was not accepting the proffered payment. More- 
over, in order to start the proposed campaign he requested, within the 
acknowledged bounds, guarantees of absolute freedom of action. Trujillo 
agreed, on the one condition that La Opinion refrain from attacking either 
himself or the Army. 

The following weeks were ones of frantic labor in the La Opinion news 
room. Inspiring civic campaigns followed one after the other; the "inside** 
story of world events and dramatic local episodes found their way into 
the paper's columns. In a matter of days, La Opinion turned into a cru- 
sading journal, invading the broad fields of social problems, labor condi- 
tions, the cost of living, and, of all things, racial discrimination. It was, as 
an observer pointed out, "trying to drink it all up in one gulp." For the 
first time in sixteen years Dominicans had the chance to read something 
resembling a real newspaper and their reaction was genuine excitement. 

It was too good to last. Early in 1946 in the midst of the flurry, the 

1 Of this peculiar incident I have first hand knowledge because I was at the time 
the managing~editor of La Opini&n. 


former Vice Rector of the University of Santo Domingo, Dr. Jose An- 
tonio Bonilla Atiles, paid a visit to the editor's office. He had brought a 
letter he wanted to be printed. Addressed to a group of prominent pro- 
fessionals who were beating the drums of reelection almost two years In 
advance of election time, the document suggested that the Benefactor was 
not the only possible candidate. Bonilla urged Ms colleagues not to be 

The letter did not contain any personal attack OB the President. Yet 
it was the first time that anything directly connected with Trujillo himself 
had been brought up. A brief editorial conference was held to discuss 
Bonllla's request. Then Estella decided by himself to print the letter. 

Publication of Boniila's letter created a great deal of confusion. Peo- 
ple did not know at first whether he was acting on his own counsel or 
whether he had been Instructed to set oS a trial balloon. In official cir- 
cles where people knew better some measure of resentment was shown, 
but not enough for the paper to really worry about. Aside from a few dis- 
creet official Inquiries no action was taken either against the newspaper 
or against Bonilla, 

Yet, an upheaval was bound to happen. La Opinion's next issue came 
out with another controversial document. Boniila's letter had touched off 
a minor campus explosion at the University Law School, where he taught 
Administrative Law, and a group of about sixty students had signed a 
message endorsing the professor's stand. Having printed the first letter, 
Estella had no choice but to continue. The Government now became 
alarmed at the students* Intervention and there was an explosion. 

Pressure was brought to bear upon the students, their parents and rela- 
tives. Consequently, many signers recanted. Another letter was hastily 
prepared at the National Palace for students to sign and send to La 
Opinion. They had been tricked, the official manifesto asserted, because 
never before publication had they set their eyes on the document printed 
by the newspaper only a day ago. The students had been made to believe, 
the Palace's version of the Incident went on to say, that they were signing 
a petition to the University faculty pleading for a reduction of tuition fees. 
Why such a petition should be made almost eight months ahead of the 
beginning of the next term was never explained. With those who refused 
to join in the recantation movement the Government showed patience, 
tolerance and understanding. However, when the next registration period 
started, they were flatly refused the right to register. A new wave of re- 
cantation followed. 2 

"Moderate" opposition was tossed overboard as a result of the stu- 
dents* letter. On this occasion Trujillo did not bother to receive the paper's 

2 My sister, Maricusa Ornes, lost her chance to graduate at the University of Santo 
Domingo Law School, on account of her reiterated refusal to recant 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 194 

editor nor did he ask Estella's cooperation. A brief telephone call from 
the Palace was enough. A campaign of insults and vilification was started 
in ail newspapers against Dr. Bonilla. The courageous professor follow- 
ing an abortive attempt on his life by one of Trujillo's thugs, Colonel 
Apolinar Jaquez took asylum at the Mexican Embassy and shortly there- 
after went into exile with his family. 

The Bonilla occurrence was the grand climax of Trujillo's journalistic 
farce. Its ending, however, was anti-climactic. The Benefactor made a fair 
offer to the Lepervanche family, who, after selling their property, packed 
up and left the country, A few months later La Opinion merged with 
La Nation, 

Ciudad Trujillo had achieved by 1947 the dubious distinction of being 
a one-newspaper capital. Yet, by a strange twist, "the Chief" was no longer 
the owner of La Nation when the process of elimination was finally con- 
summated. He hates headaches, at least business headaches, for the sake 
of a few thousand dollars. And a newspaper is a very tricky piece of 
property. Newsprint shortages during the war years, lack of skilled labor 
and other complexities plaguing Dominican journalism proved too much 
for the Generalissimo's forbearance. To relieve his mind of the petty 
problems of everyday newspaper management, "the Chief" disposed of 
the property at a profit no doubt. The shares of stock were transferred 
first to the Partido Dominicano and then, in 1946, to Senator Mario 
Fermrn Cabral. In 1957 Trujillo took over La Nation. 

In 1947 the talent for enterprise of an American promoter, Stanley 
Ross, proved overpowering enough to persuade the Benefactor he should 
put his money anew in a newspaper, Ross prevailed upon Trujillo that 
this time he needed a different sort of house organ. It was agreed that to 
identify El Caribe (as the new publication eventually was baptized) with 
the regime would be a mistake. Foreign consumption a thing always 
dear to "the Chief" was the leit motif. The new paper should be "in- 
dependent, non-political" and, unlike the rest of the press, should not use 
so many laudatory adjectives preceding mention of the Benefactor's name. 
In El Caribe the Generalissimo would be called simply "President Tru- 
jillo." This, and the introduction of the technique of basing news stories 
upon a mixture of half truths, innuendoes and outright lies (until then 
Dominican newspapers had been plain, unsophisticated liars) , were going 
to be the upstart's major contributions to Dominican journalism. 

A dummy corporation was founded to carry out the new formula. Stan- 
ley Ross appeared as President of the corporation and editor of El Caribe. 
Notwithstanding all efforts to conceal the identity of the real owner, 
everybody knew who had invested the required half million dollars to 
start the paper. Lest there be any mistake, doubts about ownership were 
further dispelled at the outset by the fact that most of the names In the 


original list of stockholders were of people in Trujillo's employment, in- 
cluding Ms then personal business manager, Bienvenido Gomez. "I sup- 
plied the necessary funds for the appearance of the great newspaper El 
Caribe, on April 14, 1948," said TnijUlo for the benefit of the Inter 
American Press Association, in October 1956. 

Unquestionably El Caribe revelled in the use of the lie as an instru- 
ment of policy. Shielded behind the presumptuous motto "at the service 
of the Antillian peoples," the new daily set out in a big way to break the 
few rules of ethics still in use in local news rooms. The Foro Publico 
(letters to the editor section) one of its most successful innovations 
was shortly being employed to bludgeon Trujillo's friends and foes alike, 
with anonymous slanderous missives written at the National Palace. Its 
new style of journalism, full of distortions and suppressions some big, 
some little usually crude, occasionally clever promptly established El 
Caribe as a freewheeling, spectacular newsmonger. 

Ross rose from obscurity to dazzling notoriety, but El Caribe proved 
to be, despite ceaseless promotion and self-advertised big circulation, a 
money-draining proposition. After eight months of a fantastic, injudi- 
cious and wholly extravagant spree of unchecked spending the paper had 
sunk deep in the red, the deficit over $100,000. Trujillo's ax fell on Ross's 
head. "The Chief" appointed Ms then right hand man, Anselmo Paulino 
Alvarez, to take over El Caribe. 

Under Paulino's stewardship which lasted from January 1949 to Feb- 
ruary 1954 El Caribe was reshaped to fit the role of unquestioning sup- 
porter of the Trujillo regime. The new book of house style threw out as 
a useless sham the Ross-imposed restraints in the use of adjectives before 
Trujillo's name. It was considered less sophisticated but more frank and 
honorable. However, those of the Ross-devised features which had proven 
their worth as instruments of political repression were carried on and 
sometimes improved. Trujillo himself, through Ms collaborator at the helm, 
took a direct interest in setting the political line of the newspaper. 

Paulino did not know anytMng about the actual running of a news- 
paper. But he and Trujillo knew where and how to get people who could 
help them. This time I was the chosen target. The fact that I was quietly 
practicing law did not save me. I had retired from journalism in 1946 
when, fresMy released from a trujillista political jail, I had refused to 
put my byline to an article praising the Benefactor, as requested by the 
new publisher of La Opinion. 

Now, however, Trujillo needed an editor to take Ross's place and that 
was all, despite my past record as a "subversive." When I tried to avoid 
the issue, Trujillo sent me word that I should remember what happens to 
stubborn opponents. Then, under further threats of pressure against my- 
self* my blood relatives and in-laws, I was left with no choice but to as- 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 196 

siime the post of editor in chief of the newspaper, which In spite of its 
impressive name was a totally subordinate and technical position from 
which I exerted no influence whatsoever on the political conduct of the 
paper, I do not try to justify myself. Maybe I could have held out against 
Trajillo and still stay alive and free free, but unable to work and sup- 
port my family; free, but unable to travel out of the country; free, but 
unable to publish any of my writings, however non-political, and free, but 
unable to mingle with old friends. 

It was a "shot gun wedding" bound to end in divorce. In the interim, 
however, as editor of El Caribe I had to write many trujillista editorials 
(some with my by4ine), although all the lead articles, particularly those 
attacking foreigners, were always dictated at the National Palace, and 
most of the time Trajillo himself edited their text. 

To say that I disagreed with the editorial policy of El Caribe and 
with the things I was myself writing, would certainly sound now as a 
very flat piece of self-justification. In February, 1954, I had the oppor- 
tunity to buy El Caribe. To indemnify himself from his losses during 
Ross's administration of the newspaper, Trajillo had sold the corporation, 
two or three years before, to the Dominican Government. (A few shares 
of stock had been left in the hands of the Partido Dominicano to manipu- 
late the corporation directorship.) At last Paulino's turn had come 
and he was already slated though no one suspected it yet, least of all 
himself to faE into disfavor. The Benefactor was quietly engaged in the 
task of wresting power from his favorite's hands. El Caribe was put up for 
sale, and I submitted the highest bid. With the help of a personal loan 
made by the Bank of Reserves (of which at the moment I was a director), 
I paid in cash the required purchase price of $634,455.61, obtaining own- 
ership of every one of the corporation's 1,165 shares of stock. To keep the 
dummy corporation going I put ten of those shares in the names of my wife 
and other relatives and personal friends. 

I had then the quixotic idea that as the owner of El Caribe I would be 
able to change gradually of course the low character of the newspaper. 
By then I had had enough contact with Trajillo, but I was still under the 
illusion that much of what happened in the country was due to the fact 
that the Generalissimo, surrounded by self-seekers and sycophants, did 
not have the right people around him nor did he know everything that 
his subordinates were doing in his name. That I was one hundred per cent 
wrong I now readily admit: each Dominican newspaper, regardless of 
ownership, in order to subsist has to dance to Trajillo's queer tunes. And 
those tunes are his, no one else's. 

To be sure, I was the owner of the newspaper. No one ever told me 
how to handle its finances; how much newsprint I should buy or have in 
stock; how many pages an issue should have. On editorial matters, how- 


ever, things were different. Trujillo kept on acting as if the newspaper 
had never changed hands. After a while my wife (who reluctantly had 
approved of my venture into El Caribe's ownership) and 1 had our defi- 
nite second thoughts. The outcome was just a matter of time. 

Before taking our final decision to break away from the poisonous en- 
vironment in which we were submerged, a full year and a half of bitter 
uncertainty, anxieties and frustrations were to elapse. A totally unfore- 
seen accident was going to rescue us from under Trujillo. One day I got 
into trouble with the Benefactor because of a minor misprint in El Caribe. 

The contretemps that got me into difficulty involved a caption. On 
October 27, 1955, a picture in El Caribe showed a crowd of flower-bear- 
ing school children placing their bouquets at the base of one of the 1,800 
busts of Trujillo. Beneath was a caption informing my readers that the 
little ones were putting their blossoms on the Benefactor's "tomb." The 
error, an obvious minor newsroom mix-up, became serious only because 
of "the Chiefs" power and idiosyncracies. To put Trajillo's immortality 
in doubt is the worst conceivable offense to his ego, and offenses do not 
go unpunished in Trajilloland. Fortunately, before the misprint appeared, 
my wife and I had arranged a trip to the United States to attend a meet- 
ing of the Inter American Press Association in New Orleans. And, al- 
though the big guns of the National Palace's propaganda office had already 
started firing against me, we left the Dominican Republic, as scheduled, 
on October 28. 

Apparently, in the confusion of the moment, no one had issued instruc- 
tions to detain me, a rather difficult decision in any case, since Trujillo, 
the only one who can make up Ms mind without fear of the consequences, 
was not around. Three or four days before, he had gone to Kansas City on 
a family trip which included a $200,000 series of cattle and horse deals. 

During the days following our arrival hi the United States I had an 
opportunity to read the Dominican press, and what I saw there about my- 
self did not look reassuring. A campaign of personal vilification against 
me had started in La Nacion. Among the printed material, moreover, 
there was a very amusing letter attacking me but addressed to none other 
than Trujillo's little brother Hector, the President. That, by the way, 
showed the unusual importance attached to the incident, since Hector's 
chief function is not to punish political offenders but to wear out the car- 
pets of the National Palace hurrying from the western wing of the huge 
building to the eastern side, where big brother gives orders and rules. 

My role as one of Trujillo's publishers had always been disturbing to 
my wife and me. Now our sense of disgust increased, and after a great 
deal of deep inner conflict and mutual consultation we decided the time 
for a decision had finally come. No matter what, we would not return to 
the Dominican Republic. 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 198 

Before the final breach, however, I made a trip to Kansas City from 
New York City, where I had gone, and personally informed the Generalis- 
simo that I was not going back. I offered Mm, as a peace gesture, my 
newspaper for sale, and he politely asked me to write Mm a letter to that 
effect, wMch I did several weeks later, on December 14, 1955. During 
our Kansas City conference Trujillo was very nice. He went out of his 
way to give me the impression that he would be pleased to let bygones be 
bygones and that he was not kicking me out. He seemed unable to grasp 
the whole meaning of my decision and appeared totally at a loss trying 
to understand why anyone could react in such a way to a few insulting 
letters sent by him to a newspaper. 

The letter I wrote Trujillo upon Ms request has since been passed 
around as a proof of my "treason" and of my alleged abortive attempt 
at "blackmailing" the Benefactor. Trujillo's propagandists, as well as Stan- 
ley Ross, say that I wrote the letter to extort $100,000 from Trujillo in 
order to buy a Spanish-language daily in New York, and that, when re- 
jected, I turned against the Benefactor, suddenly finding that the "eternal 
and absolute loyalty and friendship" that I had sworn for Mm in the 
same letter "was no longer eternal, loyal nor friendly." 

The letter does not bear out these allegations. Its cMef purpose was to 
remind the Benefactor, perhaps too diplomatically, that I was not going 
back to the poisonous climate of the Dominican Republic where I had 
been born and lived all my life; where most of my relatives reside and 
all my property is located; where I had enjoyed a profitable law prac- 
tice, owned the largest newspaper, held a high government position (Vice 
President of the Development Commission), had been a bank director 
and otherwise had standing and was entitled to certain advantages. Fur- 
thermore, I refused to recant, making plain at the same time that I was 
not returning because the unhealthy environment of my native land was 
no longer bearable to me. Only incidentally did I offer my newspaper for 
sale or mention any other business transaction. 

It is unfortunate that with only a few days out of the country I had 
not had time enough to disengage myself from the peculiar mannerisms 
wMch form part of the present Dominican way of life and so I still had to 
write my otherwise frank letter in the language peculiar to aE communica- 
tions to the Benefactor if an answer was to be forthcoming. Somewhat need- 
lessly I told Trujillo again what I planned to do with the money in the 
event of the sale of El Caribe* Morover, as I would need additional capi- 
tal had I bought El Diario de Nueva York, I so advised Mm of this. I 
did not, either in my letter or in any other document, nor in any other 
way, try to "sell" Trujillo on any editorial policy had I bought the afore- 
mentioned daily. 

Trujillo answered that he was not interested in buying newspaper 


properties, either in Ms own country or abroad, and as it was Christmas 
time he wished me "health and prosperity." Thereupon he illegally as- 
sumed control over my newspaper without paying for it. 

Upon Ms orders, decrees were issued stripping me of every post and 
medal I ever had. In the manner reminiscent of Nazi and Communist tech- 
niques of smearing former public officials cast out of favor, my family and 
I were publicly libelled in the most vicious way. My own newspaper un- 
der its brand-new Trujillo-appointed management joined the pack and 
printed disgraceful stories and cartoons. Professional, political and social 
organizations declared me persona non grata. I was even asked to return 
the keys of Ciudad Trujillo, which had been granted me in an apparently 
thoughtless moment. This I could not comply with since the keys had 
been removed, together with many other little mementoes, by Trajillo's 
own secret police during their search and subsequent occupation of our 
home. Finally, my father, German Omes, a respected lawyer and former 
professor, was imprisoned and condemned to two years in prison on 
trumped-up fantastic charges of drag addiction. 

What has happened since with El Caribe's property is an involved tru- 
jillista operation. For months I did everything within my reach to assert my 
rights. The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) in successive deci- 
sions recognized me as the legitimate proprietor and legal representative of 
El Caribe. Trajillo's contentions that there was a private dispute between 
a debtor (myself) and a creditor (the bank) were rejected as baseless. 
Meanwhile, in the Dominican Republic nothing was done, though the usur- 
pation of my legitimate rights was maintained by the regime. 

Suddenly the Banco de Reservas de la RepubMca Dominicana an- 
nounced in the press the transfer of its creditor rights to an American- 
owned construction outfit doing business in the country: Elmhurst Con- 
tracting Co. Then without ever getting in contact with me and without 
paying heed to my repeated efforts to fulfill my obligations and exert my 
ownership rights, Elmhurst foreclosed on the property. Neither Elm- 
hurst nor the Bank of Reserves ever answered one of the letters written to 
them in iny behalf by my American attorney, R. Lawrence Siegel. This 
attitude prompted Siegel to point out in a letter addressed to the IAPA 
that in Ms experience he had "never met or heard of anything compar- 
able to the Bank (of Reserves) -El Corzie-Omes situation." 

"It is incredible," said Seigel, "that a responsible financial institution will 
conduct its affairs with a depositor so as not to acknowledge Ms request for 
information concerning his bank account and so as not to comply with 
requests for delivery of Ms bank statements and cancelled checks. It is 
unbelievable that a creditor-bank holding paper for a balance of a prin- 
cipal sum which has been reduced to the amount of $489,000.00 by the 
debtor after making all previous payments in time would not be amenable 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 200 

to the requests on the part of the debtor and his attorney for a conference 
regarding the payment of such debt/' He finished by saying "but all of 
these inconceivable and astonishing things did occur here." 



Editors and columnists daily come close to putting their hero, Gen- 
eralissimo Rafael L. Trujillo, on a par with the Deity. Reading the Do- 
minican press without any other acquaintance with Generalissimo Tru- 
jillo's activities and policies would give one the impression that the Bene- 
factor combines the creative mind of a Copernicus with the inventive one 
of a Marconi, that he has the military genius of an Alexander the Great 
combined with the statemanship of a Talleyrand. On April 4, 1957, in a 
single paragraph of an article printed in El Caribe, Trujillo was called 
"the Great, Saviour of America, Orientator of the World and First Anti- 
Communist of the American Continent." His birthplace, San Cristobal, has 
been compared to Bethlehem. 

Nowhere in the world, except perhaps in the Soviet Union, has journal- 
ism become so degrading. Regardless of ownership, each newspaper is a 
conveyor of Tnijillo's propaganda and a willing tool of the Dictator. 

Trujillo constantly encourages distorted editorials and articles as well 
as slanted headlines in the press. This, along with outright misrepresenta- 
tion in the offerings of the radio network owned by brother Arismendy 
Trujillo, is the daily fare of Dominican public opinion. 

There is no other press but Trajilio's press. Thus, what is printed in the 
newspapers is the most reliable index to official purpose. Each article and 
editorial, as well as most of the news stories, are the direct or tangential 
expression of government policy. News about government and political 
activities is always presented in strict conformity to the text of the official 
press releases. Reporters, no matter how much they know about a par- 
ticular news item, will never write a story until told to do so. Then, they 
do not dare to make any independent check on the pertinent facts. So, the 
general outlook of the Dominican press, as set forth by the capital pub- 
lications, represents Trujillo's policies as faithfully as Moscow's Pravda and 
Izvestia represent the Kremlin. 

There is no overt government censorship, although the Secretary of 
Security is empowered to impose it whenever he sees fit. There is no 
official authority or censorship bureau to which journalists must resort in 
order to check on the publication of their stories. There is no need for 
them. The actual situation was summarized years ago by an editor as one 


of "edit at your own risk but be damn careful what you print." This ac- 
counts for the formulation of a strict, unwritten voluntary code of self- 
censorship. Nevertheless, in all editorial and composing rooms there are 
always Informers ready to report any dangerous deviation from the "line," 

The standing set of directives, established for many years, makes every- 
thing fit into grooves. In a given situation the newsmen know exactly what 
to write. One of the unbreakable dogmas, of course, is that the Benefactor 
can do no wrong. However, Trujillo feels himself so well entrenched now- 
adays that there are very few editorial "taboos" actually in force. Papers 
print foreign dispatches about workers* strikes, civil rights legislation, 
democratic upheavals, longing for freedom among other peoples, revo- 
lutions and overthrowing of dictatorial governments, all unheard-of ex- 
amples of news reporting under any other totalitarian dictatorship. Ed- 
itors do take pains to softpedal stories about foreign university student 
strikes, but only because "the Chief fears they might Instill perilous 
thoughts in Ms own students. 

But on local matters, to keep their jobs editors must sing the trujillista 
tunes over and over. In the news rooms and editorial sanctums the pre- 
vailing habit Is to write only what is good for Trujillo. "Dominican journal- 
ists' main difficulty is to find a new adjective; he who finds a new Idea 
is already a genius," wrote Jesus de GaMndez. With a nice touch of irony, 
and doubtless with an unconscious vengeance as well, Dominican ed- 
itors' originality is being revealed every Monday, for several years now, 
In an identically worded El Caribe front-page headline reading: "Public 
Hail Trujillo at the Race Track/* 

Cynicism is rampant. There are very few journalists who in private 
would not talk sarcastically of Trujlllo's megalomania or otherwise deride 
the salient features of the regime, but they will never say a word in public, 
because there Is too much fear in their hearts. Shabbily treated by the re- 
gime (with a few exceptions among publishers), and most of them badly 
paid, newspapermen feel themselves the neglected stepchildren of the 
system. Yet they know that it Is not possible for a publisher, editor or 
writer to earn his living and continue to defy the regime* 

There is a residue of humor left. Trujillo may have been able to force 
them to write what he wants, but he has not succeeded in making them 
take those things seriously, An old-time joke in El Caribe illustrates this 
point Every Sunday afternoon on his return from covering the exploits of 
the then undefeated and seemingly invincible polo team led by Lieutenant 
General Doctor Rafael L. "Ramfis" Trujillo, Jr., the sports editor would 
be received by his fellow writers with a unanimous "Who won today?" 

Under the circumstances the fare which Dominican newspapers serve 
their readers is boring. Preferential treatment is given to political rallies 
where civic, business, labor and professional groups pay homage to 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 202 

"the Chief's" exalted policies, as well as to lengthy and repetitious re- 
ports on the country's economic development, cleanliness and progress; 
the initiation of public works; the educational advances and the health im- 
provement programs. Banner headlines are usually reserved for stories of 
the unveiling of busts of the Benefactor, his mother or his little brother 
Hector. In June, 1956, the inauguration of "President Trujillo Street" in 
the city of Santiago was a lead story of El Caribe requiring the pens of two 

One of the main tasks of the trujillista press is to paint a happy picture 
of life under the guidance of the Benefactor. Calamities and pessimism have 
no place in the jolly frame of Dominican journalism. Squalor, poverty and 
sickness among Dominicans cannot be shown in print. 

Nevertheless, local news about crime and accidents are reported quite 
freely almost in the way in which American newspapers cover such 
happenings. Except and here we find another Dominican peculiarity 
when a mysterious crime or "accident" is involved. Then the papers, if 
printing the story at all, adhere without deviation to the not always logical 
police version. This accounts, at times, for some peculiar reading, as in the 
occasion, in 1949, when on orders from lieutenant general (later police 
colonel) Federico Fiallo the newspapers printed a picture showing a 
silk stocking and a bottle of whisky conspicuously over the charred ruins 
of an automobile. The purpose was to give credence to the police version 
that the Architect Trene Perez (well known as a recalcitrant "indifferent") 
had lost his life in an accident, while on a drinking spree with an unidenti- 
fied female whose body was never produced. 

Hardly ever are editorial comments printed in the monotonous pages of 
Dominican newspapers. And, whenever printed, they either consist of 
syrupy accounts of Trujillo's latest accomplishments or of bitter denun- 
ciations of the Benefactor's enemies. In the latter case the initiative always 
rests upon the Generalissimo himself. The dirtiest ones are personally dic- 
tated by him. Moreover, even in the rare instances in which a new idea 
is suggested by an editor, he feels obliged to ascribe its origins to "the 
Chief's" storehouse of thoughts. 

On occasion editorials are employed to create an artifiical demand for 
measures the Government has already been contemplating. Whenever the 
Benefactor wants to impose new taxes or harsher economic controls, he 
plants editorials, articles and letters reproaching businessmen for their 
selfishness, greed and other sins. Suddenly big words like "profiteering," 
"popular welfare" and "creeping inflation" are unearthed. People in busi- 
ness are made to appear as vampires of their fellow-men's blood. The same 
energy and ingenuity is shown by the press in denouncing those people the 
Generalissimo is interested in stamping out of business in order to take 
over their coveted enterprises. Then names appear in print* Otherwise 


the press just gives a general picture of the immorality, lack of patriotism, 
wickedness and selfishness of the merchant class. 

Under the pressure of the intense press campaigns the Government ap- 
pears submissive to public demand and soon thereafter a presidential 
message is sent to Congress calling for remedial legislation, which is 
promptly passed, 

Dominican papers subscribe to one or more of the American news serv- 
ices and provide their readers with an ample amount of foreign informa- 
tion. As a rule, they do not slant the agencies' reports, unless directed by 
the Palace. Whenever relations with another nation go through a period 
of strain, the local press receives, straight from Trajillo's offices, a num- 
ber of stories on economic distress, political unrest, official corruption 
and communist activities in the "enemy" country. During part of 1956 and 
1957 a campaign of this sort was conducted against the government of 
Puerto Rico, Cuba had been an earlier victim, 

A "must" are reprints from foreign publications eulogizing the Bene- 
factor. The press prints long dispatches under foreign datelines showing 
how favorably the Generalissimo's achievements are viewed in other coun- 
tries, especially in the United States. "The Chief is always willing to pay 
well for this kind of publicity, so well in fact that Ciudad Trujillo has be- 
come a known pot of gold for adventurous and unscrupulous foreign pub- 
lishers and reporters. The Dominican Government once paid over $100,- 
000 for publication af a "special issue" of a third-rate Mexican magazine 
called Auge. The issue later reprinted in English never circulated in 

At the same time, uncomplimentary foreign comments are kept out of 
the newspapers. Except for those few with access to the foreign press, Do- 
minicans first learned about GaHndez's disappearance and Gerald Lester 
Murphy's murder when their government decided to provide its own 
slanted versions of certain aspects of the two cases. "The daily news- 
paper El Caribe" said the New York Times, August 13, 1957, "has not 
printed a word about the hiring of Mr. (Morris) Ernst and former New 
York Supreme Court Justice William EL Munson to investigate the 
(Galindez) case. Nor has mention been made in print of the hiring of 
Sidney S. Baron, a public relations man, as press agent for the Govern- 

This brings us to an amusing feature of Dominican journalism the 
practice of publishing the Government's version or rebuttal of suppressed 
news stories. Occasionally Dominicans find themselves reading heated 
editorials on matters that were never given to them as straight news. For 
example, the accusations leveled against the Trujillo regime by Represent- 
ative Charles O. Porter (D.-Ore-) have not been printed in the Dominican 
Republic. However, there have been many insulting editorials and articles 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 204 

in El Caribe and La Nation against the courageous American Congress- 
man as well as derogatory analysis of his motivation. "It is apparently 
necessary to rebut the charges you don't publish in a country where every- 
body knows they aren't true anyway" was Murray Kempton's caustic com- 
ment on the queer situation. 

Sometimes, stories about important events are delayed for weeks and 
even months. In 1956 the latest Cuban-Dominican controversy did not 
find space in the Dominican newspapers until the mediation team of the 
Organization of American States advised both countries to directly nego- 
tiate a settlement. Then the Foreign Office communique was printed as if it 
were a normal follow-up on a story everybody had been reading about in 
the newspapers. No background material was ever printed. 

In a normal edition of a Dominican newspaper, TrujiUo's name is men- 
tioned as often as one hundred times, usually preceded by his full titles 
and several adjectives. But whenever a so-called "special edition" is printed 
(a thing that occurs three or four times a year, on occasions such as 
the Benefactor's birthday), adulation knows no limit. Every corporation 
foreign or domestic every merchant, every professional association, 
cultural or social organization, consistently buys space (ranging from a 
quarter to a full page) to congratulate "the Chief" and to testify their 
love for him. These editions are opportunities for out-of-grace politicians 
or citizens accused of "indifference" toward the regime, to find an easy 
way of advertising their all-out support of trujillismo. On the birthday edi- 
tion of October 24th, 1956, thirty-three TrujHlo-owned corporations 
bought space to congratulate Trujillo. 

Needless to say, under Trujillo the life of an editor is no bed of roses. 
Editors get angry summons from the National Palace for a variety of 
causes from a displeasing item in the Social Column to a misplaced word 
in the lead editorial. 

A Dominican editor must always be careful to whom he gives hos- 
pitality in his columns. Porfirio Rubirosa, for instance, is good copy for 
editors anywhere else but in his native land. Although he has issued the 
famous Dominican lover a permanent diplomatic passport to promote his 
country abroad, the Benefactor is too jealous to allow too much publicity 
in his own press to a Dominican known better than himself in the interna- 
tional sets. 

At the time of Rubirosa's marriage to the fabulous American heiress 
Barbara Hutton, Dominican newspapers were permitted a fair coverage 
of the affair. One afternoon, however, I received in my office of El Caribe 
a telephone call from the Palace, and the favorite in turn told me "the 
Chief was inquiring whether there was not more "constructive news" 
than the antics of Rubirosa and Ms bride. The hint was taken and the 


Rubirosa-Hutton romance was cut short at least for the readers of 
El Caribe a few weeks ahead of its actual ending. 

The term "constructive news" has an elusive meaning in Dominican 
journalese. It can be either anything in praise of the regime or a par- 
ticularly vicious attack on its enemies, AU kinds of news are constantly 
suppressed for not being "constructive" enough. For lack of "constructive- 
ness" big news events like the massacre of 15,000 Haitians on Dominican 
soil in 1937 are still waiting to be reported in full by the local press. 

At regular intervals Trujillo invites the press to formulate "construc- 
tive" criticism, but the invitations are wisely acknowledged as empty ges- 
tures. Nothing ever comes out of the suggestion except, perhaps, a few 
surreptitious jokes. 

My second experience with a non-constructive story also involved 
Rubirosa. Months after his separation from Miss Hutton, our Romeo came 
back home to invest part of the loot in a confiscated cocoa farm (which he 
later sold back to the Dominican Government for $800,000) and to par- 
ticipate in a series of polo games. 

A moderate amount of publicity was allowed. Yet the respite was going 
to be short-lived. It ended the day after one of my sports editors had the 
happy idea of interviewing Rubi at a cockfight. Although treated as a 
normal sports feature, the story had shattering repercussions. Trujillo 
personally took exception to the fact that Rubirosa had been quoted as 
saying that prior to this occasion he had never attended a cockfight. A 
letter to the Foro Publico, sent by messenger from the National Palace, 
called the hero of our story a liar. He should remember, the document said, 
that he had been brought up among gamblers and had spent his early life 
next door to his father's cockpit. The editor of El Caribe (myself) was 
bluntly queried on the amount of money received to promote Rubirosa. 
Neither Rubirosa nor I bothered to answer the letter, an unheard-of thing 
in a country where people rush to answer whenever their names are men- 
tioned in the dreaded section. With that we spoiled Trujillo's fun. 

With such effective de facto control of newspaper writing hardly any 
legislation is needed. A press law has been enacted, however, but it is 
rarely enforced. Its main features are of an administrative character, pro- 
viding for the registration of publishers and editors, as well as the daily 
deposit (a provision strictly enforced) of two copies of each edition at 
the Secretary of Security's offices. The law is a sharp razor to put out of 
business any publication, if it is desired to do so. 

Another law, of April 1933, declares that anyone who might by his 
writings, letters, speeches or in other ways spread "information of sub- 
versive character, injurious to the authorities or defamatory of the gov- 
ernment" should be tried as a common criminal. 

On March 26, 1947, Trujillo signed law No. 1387, whereby any per- 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 206 

son of Dominican nationality who with the purpose of defaming the Re- 
public or its institutions spreads false and malicious news among foreigners 
residing or passing through the Dominican Republic, or who transmits 
such news abroad by any means of communication, will be condemned to 
from two to three years in prison. If this offense is repeated, the offender 
is liable to the maximum penalty of the law, which is five years in prison. 
Foreigners found guilty of violations of this act may be summarily de- 
ported from the country by decree of the Executive. 

Act No. 4602, passed by Congress in December 1956, provides for the 
registration of agents and correspondents of foreign publications and news 
services* Since registration can be withheld by the authorities at will, this 
insures the government absolute control over the representatives of the 
foreign press permanently stationed in the Dominican Republic. 

With or without this act, the predicament of the American news gather- 
ing services in the Dominican Republic is not enviable. Outwardly there 
is no censorship for outgoing news, The correspondents of the news 
agencies can file whatever stories they want without prior presentation to 
the authorities. (Usually upon request from the government the cable 
offices supply copies of dispatches.) However, the news services are sys- 
tematically exploited for Trujillo's purposes, and find it difficult to report 
impartially unfavorable notices of the regime. 

The problem stems from the fact that the news services do not consider 
the Dominican Republic newsworthy enough to warrant the permanent 
stationing of regular correspondents. Hence, they have to rely upon 
"stringers," who usually are highly placed local journalists (sometimes 
even government officials). Upon the judgment of these men rests the 
filing of local news with an international angle. In accordance with their 
ingrained habits they always play safe and only file those stories released 
for foreign consumption by the National Palace. Whenever they receive 
a query from their main offices, this is promptly passed on to Trujillo's 
office where the answer is prepared. Frequently the "stringers" are di- 
rected by Trujillo to exploit certain facts in a manner carefully calculated 
to serve the political aims of the regime. Occasionally the Government 
files the stories directly, sending a copy of the message later to the corre- 

Unknowingly, as in the case of the controversy between Costa Rica 
and the Dominican Republic in 1954, the news services have been used at 
times as tools of international friction. In the Costa Rica instance a news 
dispatch from Ciudad Trujillo (attributed to the Dominican Army Intelli- 
gence Service), accusing the Costa Rican government of harboring Euro- 
pean communists, originated a bitter international incident before the 
Organization of American States. The ensuing investigation proved that 
the Dominican Government could not back its baseless charges. Had the 


news agencies had regular and independent correspondents in Ciudad 
Trujillo, unafraid to check the facts, they would have discovered be- 
forehand that the explosive story was based on unwarranted hearsay gath- 
ered by Stanley Ross. 

The situation could be remedied easily if the American news agencies 
would enter into a "pool" arrangement and send down a regular reliable 
correspondent. I know that a "pool" arrangement, in which one or a few 
newspapermen represent the rest, is only justified when there are grave 
problems hampering the free gathering of news. It is my judgment that 
such a situation exists in the Dominican Republic. That sort of arrange- 
ment is entirely justified if the news services are really interested in serv- 
ing their clients unslanted news from the Dominican Republic. 

The same problems are faced on the radio-broadcasting field. There, 
though a few privately-owned radio stations still operate, the biggest net- 
work La Voz Dominicana (which includes television and other media 
of entertainment as well) is another of the Family businesses. This radio 
and television network gives most of its time to news programs, which faith- 
fully reflect the government line. 

In spite of the fact that many people doubted the wisdom of invest- 
ing in television in a country where relatively few could afford receivers, 
and where other more basic improvements were needed, the Dominican 
Republic was one of the first Latin American countries to exploit that 
medium of communication. Brother Arismendy, with the help of heavy 
government subsidies, undertook the difficult operation. Nowadays there 
is no doubt of television's popularity with those who can afford sets. 
(According to reliable information there are about 3,000 sets in the 

Although the whole operation cost the Dominican Government about 
$2,000,000 a year, it is considered worthwhile in prestige. 



Republic; just one thing please: stay out of the Foro PiibUco" This was 
the only advice tendered by an American corporation official to his wife, 
who was joining him in Ciudad Trujillo. 

However good it might be, the counsel was rather academic because 
it could scarcely be followed. The honor, or the disgrace, of appearing in 
the Foro Ptiblico the letters to the editor section of El Caribe depends 
entirely upon "the Chiefs" whims. 

Every morning, with fear in their hearts, Dominican officials and 
other prominent citizens and residents of the country read this section 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 208 

before anything else. The appearance of anyone's name is a sure sign of 
imminent trouble for that person. Begun apparently as a bona-fide column 
of letters from readers, the Foro Publico soon was corrupted into one of 
the most feared weapons devised by the Benefactor in his relentless quest 
for new means to subjugate people to his will. 

Trujillo chooses friends and foes indiscriminately as targets for attacks 
printed in this section. The letters, though often caustic, are not always 
accurate. Discerning Dominicans know that they are the Benefactor's 
way of informing the public about the current direction of his caprices. 

If such slanderous and vindictive material were to be submitted to any 
newspaper of a free country it would be considered the work of a neurotic 
and tossed into the wastebasket. Yet in the Dominican Republic it is not 
only printed, but Cabinet members who are mentioned in such letters 
feel obliged to write long and elaborate explanations and even apologies. 
Actually, they are under compulsion to do so in accordance with a Do- 
minican Party directive, but in obeying they grovel in the most abject 
language. Those who do not apologize, or explain, or are not abject enough 
when doing so, are kept continually under attack until they conform to the 
acceptable form of answer. After the humiliating process is completed, 
they are usually fired, or perhaps they are transferred to some minor post 
which they dare not refuse. Sometimes, if they perform their acts of per- 
sonal obeisance with conspicuous humility, they are pardoned, and their 
retraction and repentance accepted at least until another time. 

Why are people so filled with fright at the appearance of their names 
in the Foro Publico? Simply because they are aware that the letters printed 
are all written in the National Palace and that they are under personal 
attack from the Benefactor. As editor and later publisher and owner of 
El Caribe I know who was the author of the majority of the letters pub- 
lished in the Foro. I know, as do many Dominicans, that Trujillo himself 
dictates many of those letters, the rest being written by his most trusted 
aides in the Palace, including highly placed figures in the Cabinet. 

As a rule, the printed letters complain about laziness, idleness, graft, 
alcoholism, malingering, thievery, sexual deviations, infidelity and moral 
turpitude among public officials, businessmen and members of the social 
set. Whether the accusations are true or false is not really important. The 
charges of vice and corruption, even those levelled against persons high in 
the regime's hierarchy, are taken by the people as matter of fact occur- 
rences. This disturbing fact, which mirrors current social conditions, re- 
veals the lethargic state to which Dominicans have descended. Most people 
appear to draw the obvious conclusion that such excesses are inherent 
in the nature of the prevailing system, and that there is nothing to be done 
about it. If but a minute part of these shocking accusations were justi- 
fied, the Trujillo regime would be one of the most corrupt in history! 


There are reasons to believe, however, that many charges are tramped 
up and used by Trujillo to discredit actual or potential enemies, collabora- 
tors in disgrace as well as business competitors. Yet certain accusations 
appear to be true. Although many of the victims are already marked for 
sacrifice for reasons other than those stated, many times the charges 
seem to be based upon truth, particularly those concerning subordinate 
government employees, against whom political lies are hardly needed as 
reasons for removal. 

Usually dismissals and even court procedures follow the publication of 
charges in the Faro. Let us not get the wrong idea, however. If Trujillo 
becomes incensed over corruption to the extent that he takes part of his 
time to order such letters to the editors, it is not because he has higher 
ethical scruples than any democratic ruler. It is simply because a corrupt 
act is a propitious windfall that helps him to offer a circus to his audience 
by lashing and taking to the sacrificial stone the alleged culprits. 

Trujillo is so pleased with his devilish toy that the job of selecting the 
material for the letters became for a while his main hobby. He has even 
written letters thanking El Caribe for the so-called moralizing effects of 
El Foro Publico. Brother Hector, the President, has done likewise. Lately, 
however, Trujillo's interest in the Foro has lessened, apparently because 
he is kept busy by more pressing issues, such as the Galindez-Murphy case 
and the one-man crusade of Representative Charles O. Porter. 

The importance of the Foro Publico in Dominican life is so great that 
there has appeared a new slang expression: forear, meaning, to make 
someone appear in the Foro. Foreado is the person whose name has ap- 
peared in the column. The signer of the letter (as a rule a fictitious name) 
is called the forista. Sometimes the made-up name of the signer is a com- 
bination of names of real persons who might have some bearing upon the 
letter's subject. 

El Foro became so successful after its introduction in Dominican 
journalism by the American newspaperman Stanley Ross, that La Nacion 
soon started its own section entitled El Lector Dice Que (The Reader Says 
That) to occupy a place in the unsavory forum of name-calling. 

The device of the published letter is at times used by Trujillo to manu- 
facture "public opinion" in support of some specific policy. A chain reac- 
tion is started which usually takes the form of an encuesta or "sympo- 
sium." When the first letter answering a particular question posed by the 
newspapers (always under orders from the National Palace) carries Tru- 
jillo's signature the matter is very simple. "The Chief's" suggestions are 
followed by a flood of flattering letters, praising the brilliance of his ideas. 
On Trujillo's cue the same people who had written letters against the 
institution of the Vice-Presidency fourteen years before, wrote in 1955 
news letters clamoring for its re-establishment. It's quite another thing 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 210 

when the Generalissimo's stand is not clearly stated at the outset. Then 
the encuesta drags out for days with little or no response, until the flood- 
gates are opened by the publication of a letter signed by someone the 
people consider authorized to give a hint about "the Chief's" ideas upon 
the subject submitted for discussion. 

People have asked me, over and over again, what would be the lot of 
a publisher who refused to print such material. Well, the publisher crazy 
enough to do such a thing would be cooking his own goose. Upon re- 
fusal he would surely occupy a vermin-infested cell in a jail. "The Chief" 
would then print not a letter, but an article, with the rejected material 
plus some addenda, under the publisher's by-line. In the meantime the 
news of the publisher's jailing would be suppressed. When the storm 
finally broke into print neither the publisher nor the person he was trying 
to protect with his refusal would be spared. The publisher would be ac- 
cused of some common crime that had no connection with the real issue. 
And, worse yet, the third party the person originally under fire would 
never know that his friend fell into disgrace and went to jail because of 
him. Probably he would feel very happy that a scoundrel, who three days 
before was attacking him, finally had been exposed for what he was a 
common criminal. This may sound unbelievable but so is Trujillo. 



with his close relatives. To impose his kin upon his harassed people he 
has spurned both ethics and traditions and has made a mockery of the 
due process of law. To help the Trujillos to rise and accumulate wealth, 
while denying such an opportunity to many others, the Benefactor has 
followed a course that found few precedents in history. He has made 
presidents out of brothers; although a sworn enemy of the Dominican 
aristocracy, which he secretly admires, he has converted daughters into 
shining queens; he has made distinguished lady writers out of wives and 
a "paragon of the womanly virtues" out of his own mother. His children 
and other relatives are generals, ambassadors and ministers; they also are 
black marketeers, speculators and profiteers who have waxed rich during 
the Era of Trujillo. 

There is no question that Trujillo has always been thoughtful of his 
large family, which includes his parents, his ten brothers and sisters, scores 
of nephews and nieces, both legitimate and illegitimate. He has trans- 
formed the whole country into a field of exploitation for anyone named 
Trujiflo. As has been aptly said: "The brothers export, the brother-in- 
law imports, and the head of the family, naturally, deports." There is not 
a poor Trujillo in the Dominican Republic. With the booty from the coun- 
try Trujillo has even fed bis numerous mistresses and their relatives as 
well as the mistresses of his brothers and children. 

Trujillo's father was Jose (Don Pepe ) Trujillo Valdez. Don Pepe, an 
obscure post-office employee from San Crist6bal, had as his only source of 
pride the fact that he was the son of a Spanish police officer, Jose Tru- 
jillo Monagas, who for unspecified difficulties left Havana, where he was 
stationed, and came to the Dominican Republic, where he met a native 
beauty named Silveria Valdez, Soon thereafter Trujillo Valdez went back 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 212 

to Ms country., leaving behind Silveria and her offspring in dire poverty. 
Although Silveria lived to be 105, she never recovered from that sad state. 

Until his boy took power Don Pepe had led an obscure life in his home 
town. A jovial, good-natured person, who had never been anything better 
than a postal clerk, he was regarded by San Cristobal society as some- 
thing of a failure. When Rafael entered political life, things changed over- 
night and Don Pepe was "elected" a member of Congress. Soon he was 
holding court in the middle of an increasingly large number of former 
cronies and patronage seekers as well as court fixers. Yet he was destined 
to be the member of the Family, as the clan is known by the Dominicans, 
who enjoyed least the power and wealth heaped upon them by Rafael's 
sudden rise. Don Pepe began to indulge too late in life in physical pleas- 
ures and could not rival his own son in the art of love. He died on June 10, 
1935, and his son's administration decreed ten days of national mourning. 
Don Pepe's body was buried in one of the chapels of the Cathedral of 
Santa Maria la Menor, built by the Spaniards four centuries before, where 
is also buried Christopher Columbus. Ever since one of the legislative 
rituals most strictly observed is the performance of a yearly Mass on the 
anniversary of his death. Clad in immaculate white, the whole government 
and diplomatic corps attend the Mass and the placing of wreaths on Don 
Pepe's tomb. 

The Benefactor's mother is Julia Molina Trujillo, better known to 
sycophants as Mamd Julia. Busy with the care of her ever-increasing, never 
prosperous household, Mrs. Trujillo did not have much time for any- 
thing else. By the time Rafael joined the Army she had left her home-town 
and was living in Villa Duarte, one of the capital city's poorest quarters. It 
was her address that Rafael gave in his induction papers. 

Nowadays one sees frequently on newspaper front pages photographs 
of Dona Julia receiving delegations of people from all walks of life who 
are eager to pay their respects to the matriarch of the Dominican Republic. 
She has been awarded by Act of Congress the title of First Lady of the 
Nation and she is also known as the Excelsa Matrona. On Mother's Day 
the Dominican students must write small compositions about her virtues 
and all festivities of the day are dedicated to her as the embodiment of 
all that is good in Dominican womanhood. She is eulogized "for your rich 
treasure of eminent virtues; for your exemplary virtues of a woman born 
to be a symbol of the purest moral and spiritual values . . . ; for having 
given the Republic its greatest statesman and the world one of its most 
signal workers for its political reorganization." 

The old lady has never accustomed herself to the homages that started 
to fall upon her after more than sixty years of obscure life. 

Trujillo's immediate legitimate family is not large. It is formed by Ms 
third wife, Mrs. Maria Martinez de Trujillo, and his three children, Lieu- 


tenant General Rafael L. (Ramfis) Trupo, Jr., 28; Maria de los Angeles 
del Corazon de Jesus (Angelita) Trujillo, 19; and Leonidas Rhadames 
Trujffio, 17. 

The daughter of parents who came to the Dominican Republic from 
Spain, Dona Maria is entitled by Act of Congress to the title of First Lady 
of the Nation as is Trujiilo's mother. Aside from her now rare public ap- 
pearances alongside her husband and her inroads into the literary field, 
Dona Maria stays out of the limelight She is constantly eulogized in high- 
flown language, but somehow she is not promoted as much as the rest 
of the Family. One reason for this might be her once ambiguous relation- 
ship with the Generalissimo. 

For a man who is constantly proclaiming his high moral virtues, the 
Benefactor has led a far from exemplary moral life. He has been married 
three times and has generally conducted himself, in and out of marriage, 
in a manner far from pure in the eyes of the Catholic faith he claims to 
profess so devoutly. 

Trujillo's marriage with his second wife, Bienvenida Ricardo, was 
scarcely launched when "the Chief took a fancy to the beautiful Maria 
Martinez, by whom he had Ramfis in 1929. Maria who has grown stout 
was in those day a real beauty with the features and charm that have made 
Spanish womanhood famous. She also had a genuine knack for business. 
The combination was explosive and no sooner had she linked her lot 
with that of the rising General than she was managing the lucrative laun- 
dry concession of the armed forces, to which soldiers were obliged to pay 
a sizable portion of their monthly wages. 

After Trujillo took power in 1930 Dona Maria discovered that the Gov- 
ernment had a lot of pending bills. Thereupon she established a new busi- 
ness. "The Government employees," points out Albert C. Hicks, "were to 
receive their long overdue salaries out of Government funds, but by way 
of Maria who, for the service she rendered them, was to receive a per- 
centage. The proportion she took ranged from 75 to 80 per cent. As for the 
merchants hung up with unpaid bills here, too, a settlement was to be 
made. For her commission, Maria took a paltry 60 per cent of the 
value. Thus, within a year's time this delightful lady had cleared for her- 
self in the neighborhood of some $800,000." 

About the same time Maria acquired the almost bankrupt Ferreteria 
Read and out of the decaying business grew one of the most prosperous 
hardware concerns in the whole country. A simple commercial venture 
was not satisfying enough for grasping Maria Martinez. She soon branched 
out and invaded the loan shark business, but, of course, with the security 
afforded by her closeness to government circles. Her so-called Banquito 
(small bank) began advancing to government employees a month's salary 
at the rate of 5% monthly . Instead of paying its employees the Govern- 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 214 

ment would pay the Banquito, thus assuring a steady clientele to the 
shrewd businesswoman. (Years later she sold for an unspecified amount 
of money the good will of her banquito to the Government itself.) 

By 1935 Bienvenida Ricardo, the second wife, was a useless household 
decoration to the President. He sent her on a protracted trip to Europe 
and while she was out of the country an astounding piece of legislation was 
rushed through Congress. On February 20, 1935, Congress approved a bill 
making five years of childless marriage a ground for divorce. For his in- 
spiration the devoutly Catholic Generalissimo went far afield from Do- 
minican tradition in some manner he became aware of an Oriental cus- 
tom which dictates that any Islamic husband whose wife does not bear him 
children within the five years after their marriage may repudiate his mate 
in favor of a new and possibly more fecund woman. 

The first to take advantage of the new law was the Generalissimo him- 
self. Bienvenida Ricardo was removed quietly from the contemporary 
capital scene. But the Islamic-Dominican legislation which had freed her 
Catholic husband was of no benefit for her. Although her marriage to 
Trujillo was legally dissolved she was in no sense a free woman. For Bien- 
venida Ricardo there was no chance for a new beginning even had she 
wished one. Years later, after she was no longer the Dominican First Lady, 
she bore a child whose name is Odette Trujillo. 

After his second divorce Trujillo married Maria Martinez, who since 
"shares, understandingly and loyally, the President's worries and joys," as 
Nanita stresses in his biography of "The Big One." But if she ever thought 
that as the First Lady she was going to assert any influence on the political 
life of the country there was a bitter disappointment in store for her. Writes 
Nanita: "Her share in the President's public life is not of the publicity- 
seeking kind indulged in by other women of high station who have taken 
a hand in politics." 

Although she is politically powerless, Mrs. Trujillo has proven to be a 
nuisance to many of her husband's collaborators, especially newspaper 
editors. Since she still takes great pride in her past beauty, utmost care 
has to be taken whenever her photograph is going to be used to illustrate 
stories. The editors play safe by using cuts fifteen and twenty years old. 
But news stories are really tough. Photographers are carefully instructed 
not to snap close-ups of the First Lady nor to take pictures of her full 
round body or her profile. Since many times she is photographed alongside 
her husband and the latter wants as many of his pictures in print as possi- 
ble, sometimes wrong pictures of the First Lady slip into print. Then the 
cultured and charming lady is likely to burn the wires with invective that 
the patient editors have to put up with silently. Fortunately Trujillo is an 
understanding man when it comes to his wife's foibles and he does not pay 
much attention, if any, to her complaints Against the press. 


Her temper aside, she is a woman of no small culture and charm. Ac- 
cording to Nanita, "her lofty idea of her vocation as mistress of her own 
home and of her station in society and in the world at large is reflected in 
her literary articles in her popular and justly praised book entitled Medita- 
dones Morales (Moral Meditations), and in her successful play Falsa 
Amistad (False Friendship)." 

As an author of distinction Dofia Marfa has been compared to the great 
masters of literature. A front page story of La Nation of April 20, 1956, 
asserts that Mrs. Trujillo's name is already associated with the nobility of 
the letters. Her writings, adds the story, "like the flow of the sources of 
Christianity are comforting beacons that educate and stimulate in a way 
that reminds readers of the serenity of St. Teresa de Jestis." On the other 
hand, about her literary prowess a more sober critic, Murray Kempton of 
the New York Post, had this to say: "She is the author of a play, about 
which loyal Dominicans of taste concentrate most of their public enthu- 
siasm on the elegance of the costumes in the last act, and of Moral Medi- 
tations, a collection of pensees which the official literature describes as 
occupying that empyrean plane side by side with the works of Norman 
Vincent Peale. Both were ghost-written by Jose Almonia, the Generalis- 
simo's former secretary. In the Dominican Republic Dona Maria is cus- 
tomarily described as the first lady of Caribbean letters." 

Dona Maria has not gone without her share of trouble with the Bene- 
factor. No sooner had he married her than he felt an urge for new mis- 
tresses. In 1937 he chose a beautiful and aristocratic senorita of Ciudad 
Trujillo's high society, Lina Lovaton, whom he "elected" Queen of the 
Carnival. Miss Lovaton was for years to come number one contender for 
Dona Maria's position. One day, however, the aristocratic senorita was 
shipped hurriedly to the United States in the company of her Trujillo 
children, following an abortive attempt at assassination. 

In the early fifties there was much talk in the Dominican Republic about 
a final rift between the Benefactor and the First Lady and a divorce was 
suggested. Dona Maria once more decided to take the bull by the horns 
and clearly served notice to her estranged husband that she was not going 
to put up with any divorce nonsense. Murray Kempton who during his 
visit to the Dominican Republic heard the common version of what hap- 
pened wrote in the Post: "At this moment of crisis, Dona Maria, in the 
privacy of the nuptial chamber, pulled a gun and announced that she 
would put a hole in him (Trujillo. )" Knowing that his wife meant what 
she was saying, the Benefactor set aside permanently his divorce plans. In 
1955 he finally got a Papal dispensation to marry Dona Maria in ac- 
cordance with the Catholic rites. 

Ramfis, the Crown Prince of the Dominican Republic, has been gen- 
erously endowed by his father since his early years. On April 17, 1933, 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 216 

when he was three years old he was declared by official decree a Colonel 
in the National Army, and the military and civil authorities were instructed 
to "render him all considerations befitting his position." When Ramfis 
turned four the whole cabinet attended the birthday party at his mother's 
place, despite the irregular situation then existing. The newspapers printed 
long stories and photographs of the semi-official ceremony. In 1936 he 
was declared "Protector of the Poor Children." Upon reaching the age 
of eight he earned the military merit medal "for exceptional virtues that 
he has shown at an early age." 

Prior to this Trujillo had, according to Nanita, given a proof of his 
unbounded love for his son, when the latter "was stricken, at the age of 
seven, with a serious illness that endangered his life. There was no 
question of any restraint in his demonstrations of affection for the boy, 
and there seemed to be no ameliorating the worry he felt." Finally, the 
eulogist proclaims, the seemingly endless hours of anguish and prayerful 
hope were rewarded with the child's complete recovery. 

When Ramfis was nine he was "promoted" to the rank of brigadier 
general. For several years honors were heaped upon him by the hundreds. 
Bridges, parks, hospitals, schools and roads were named after him. 
Postage stamps were issued to publicize his face and the newspapers re- 
served for him the most extravagant compliments. Then, at the age of four- 
teen, in 1943, he unexpectedly resigned his rank on the ground of youth, 
a discovery that was hailed by the Dominican press as a most precious 
demonstration of selflessness. La Nacidn published on September 5, 1943, 
letters from two cabinet members (R. Paino Richardo and Manuel A. Pena 
Batlle) congratulating Ramfis. 

Following his resignation as a general Ramfis entered the Army as a 
cadet. Six years later he was a captain, law student and distinguished turf- 
man. At the end of 1949 he was appointed an inspector of diplomatic 
missions with the rank of Ambassador. He was then twenty. 

He became an honorary lieutenant colonel in 1951, a colonel in 1952; 
a brigadier general the same year and despite the fact he cannot pilot a 
plane and papa does not allow him to fly he was made Air Force Chief 
of Staff in 1953. He received a Doctor of Law degree (without ever hav- 
ing gone to classes at the University) and his promotion to major general 
at the same time. He is now a lieutenant general. In the month of August, 
1957, Ramfis, who had been relieved unexpectedly of his duties as Chief 
of Staff of the Air Force a few months before, was shipped to the United 
States to study, at American taxpayers' expense, at the Army's Command 
and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. 

General Trujillo assumed the rank of colonel while at school. With him 
to take the same course went one of his childhood pals, Lt. Col. Fer- 
nando A. Sanchez. The presence of Trujillo, Jr., at the American Army 


Command and General Staff College was sharply questioned by U.S. 
Representative Charles O. Porter, who wrote a letter to the Secretary of 
the Army, Hon. Wilber M. Brucker, in which he said that he found it 
"hard to rationalize making this wonderful training available to men who 
will use it to oppress their own peoples and who will never be able to 
contribute anything substantial to American defense." The Army's reply 
to Porter, signed by Brigadier General J. E. Bastion, Jr., Deputy Chief 
of Legislative Liaison, is a masterpiece of evasion. The only thing that 
clearly comes out is that under the Mutual Security Act of 1954, as 
amended, "the Dominican Republic is eligible to receive military assist- 
ance. The Dominican Republic requested and was allocated two spaces at 
the Command and General Staff College." Furthermore, stated General 
Bastion, "the Department of the Army provides training at United States 
Army service schools only to those countries which have been declared 
eligible for such training under Presidential directives, the Mutual Security 
Act of 1954 as amended, and Department of Defense policy directives," 

Ramfis is hot-tempered, brash and rude. In general he acts in public 
as a spoiled brat, ever ready to rally to papa's side at the slightest provo- 
cation. At official functions he remains apart, aloof. 

In his private life Trujillo, Jr., seemingly is following in his father's 
footsteps. He has been married twice to the same girl, Octavia Ricart de 
Trujillo. During thek two marriages the couple have had five children. 
Like his father, Ramfis plays for all it is worth the religious angle while 
in the Dominican Republic, but out of the country he acts the playboy. 
Society columns have associated his name with several glamorous feminine 
names of the American smart set, including that of Peggy Howell Taylor, 
former wife of hotel and shipping magnate Dan Taylor and present wife 
of wealthy young industrialist Carl Dahlberg. Peggy was a well-chaperoned 
guest aboard the luxurious Trujillo yacht a couple of winters ago in the 
Bahamas, according to society columnist Charles Ventura. 

The handsome, six-foot Lieutenant General Trujillo, Jr., is a great 
sportsman as well. June 5, his birthday, is celebrated in the Dominican 
Republic as the Day of Sports. His sportsmanship, however, is peculiarly 
revealing. He is never satisfied except to win, so to humor him no one 
dares to defeat Ms side at any game. He is a dedicated polo player and the 
team he leads the Ciudad Trujillo went undefeated during several 
years, even against the most noted foreign poloists. When people started 
to wonder what kind of supermen played on Trajillo's team, Ramfis 
deigned to lose a game once in a while. 

Through Ramfis, Trujillo hopes to maintain his dynasty in power after 
he has gone. A recent amendment to the Dominican constitution lowered 
the eligible age for the Presidency to twenty-five and following this meas- 
ure there was, for several months, a movement to draft Trujillo, Jr., as 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 218 

running mate of his uncle Hector in the elections of 1957. In a letter ad- 
dressed to the President of the Partido Dominicano, Ramfis declined the 
honor. As reasons for his decision he gave his desire to stay in the 
armed forces as well as his purpose to earn merit by his own efforts. 
Rumor has it, however, that he was mad because his father did not offer 
him the Presidency right away. 

Trujillo seemingly wants to pave the way for Ramfis to succeed him, 
but he hesitates to give the boy the required power to insure smooth con- 
tinuity. Moreover, notwithstanding his admirers and good-wishers, fore- 
most among them his father Rafael, Sr. ? Ramfis has not developed, as he 
certainly will need to if he is going to perform the role papa has in mind 
for him (but only when he is already gone), qualifications of kingship. 

People who know him well doubt he has the prudent judgment, modera- 
tion and, above all, the patience he will need to carry through the period 
of instability and even chaos that will necessarily follow his father's death, 
even if this event occurs peacefully and in bed. There is another factor 
against Ramfis. Although his father may claim a certain degree of pop- 
ularity among the masses, due to the ceaseless cult of his personality, there 
is no proof that Ramfis shares in any degree that ascendancy. 

Trujillo has brought up his younger son, Rhadames, somewhat more 
conservatively at eleven, he was only an honorary Army major. Like 
his elder brother before him, Rhadames also resigned his commission to 
become a cadet, which he is now in the Air Force. As is the Trujillo cus- 
tom, his name graces streets, parks and buildings. Moreover he has been 
unanimously elected president of honor of a number of youth recreation 
clubs and at this writing a beauty contest is being prepared in his honor. 
He boasts the finest stable of race horses in the island and his entries in 
cattle fairs have earned a high percentage of first prizes. He has been listed 
as the owner of the famed Trujillo farm Hacienda Fundacidn. 

Currently Rhadames studies at the Kemper Military School, in Boon- 
ville, Missouri. On October 21, 1957, El Caribe printed a letter addressed 
to the Generalissimo by the President of the School, Major General Joseph 
P. Cleland, praising Rhadames as an "exceEent and outstanding" young- 

If Ramfis is the unofficial Crown Prince, daughter Angelita has been 
officially crowned Queen in ceremonies that rivalled those put on in Euro- 
pean monarchies. 

Trujillo lavishes most of his affection upon Angelita, a pretty brunette. 
When the International Fair was inaugurated in December 1955 the only 
person who was allowed to compete with the Benefactor himself for a 
little share of the popular acclaim was Angelita. She was crowned Queen 
Angelita I by her uncle Hector in a regal ceremony attended by the diplo- 
matic representatives accredited to the Dominican government. 


On her way to the throne Angelita I paced followed by a retinue of 
hundreds of courtiers along a mile of red carpet. When the moment 
of the coronation arrived, as Time described, "scurrying attendants brought 
a jeweled scepter for her hand and a diamond-studded gold crown for 
her head." Dominican intelligentsia wrote poems for the occasion, bear- 
ing such titles as "The Only Angelita." As a further example of the By- 
zantine extravagance Trujillo heaps over this child, two hairdressers were 
flown down from New York all expenses paid, to set her royal coiffure the 
day of the coronation. Their fee: $1,000. To earn that, as one beauty 
magazine reported, all they did was to invert Angelita's pony tail. Do- 
minican society chroniclers described the Coronation ball, offered by 
President Hector Trujillo, as the most outstanding social event of the 
Western Hemisphere. 

The young lady has on her record, however, a minor diplomatic storm 
between the Dominican Republic and Great Britain. When she was only 
fourteen years old, her father appointed her Ambassador for the Corona- 
tion of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. The British Foreign Office politely 
declined to acknowledge her credentials. The whole thing was hushed 
within the Dominican Republic, until it was let out by British Ambassador 
Stanley Gudgeon. His indiscretion about this slight suffered by the Bene- 
factor's daughter cost him his post. Gudgeon had issued a few checks bear- 
ing his signature at a Dominican gambling casino and Trujillo promptly 
turned them over to the British Foreign Office. 

The usual number of parks, streets, hospitals and schools have been 
named after Angelita, including one of her father's yachts, but the young 
lady never had a happy look. She has suffered her share of physical mis- 
ery, having undergone several operations for a strange back ailment. Worst 
of all, perhaps, is the fact that for years she was a secluded person, whose 
public appearances were strictly controlled by her father. Rumor among 
Dominicans was that no suitor would be allowed to approach her, since her 
possessive father considered her too good for any Dominican and was 
hoping for a blue-blooded cavalier from the old European aristocracy. Sud- 
denly at the beginning of December 1957 was announced the engage- 
ment of beautiful Angelita to an obscure Air Force major Luis de Le6n 
Estevez. The marriage took place on January 4, 1958, and from all cor- 
ners of the world presents were showered upon the couple. Among the gift 
senders were fellow dictators Francisco Franco, Marcos Perez Jimenez and 
Antoine Kebreau. The latter sent from Haiti a special plane to bear the gift. 

If Angelita is the Queen the other legitimate daughter (and the eldest 
of all the childen), Flor de Oro, has become the pauper. Strong-willed, 
not totally devoid of tropical, mulatto charm, Flor has acquired fame for 
her marital escapades. 

Popular, vivacious and possessor of a well defined, strong personality, 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 220 

very much like her father's, Flor is perhaps the only Trujillo who dares to 
stand up to the Benefactor. A spendthrift habitue of New York and Paris 
cafe society, she was called home a few years ago and forbidden to leave 
the Dominican Republic by her father, obviously displeased by her antics 
and frightened by the damage Flor's emancipated ways was doing to his 
precarious prestige. 

The Benefactor became so angry at Flor that he had a law passed al- 
lowing a father to disinherit and disavow his children, which he immedi- 
ately did to her. She now lives in complete obscurity with her mother 
Aminta Ledesma on the outskirts of Ciudad Trujillo. 

Trujillo has other children, but being born out of wedlock, they are 
kept on the sidelines. However, they all have a right to the name and in 
accordance with new laws have a right to the Generalissimo's estate. 

In their own ways Trujillo's brothers are little dictators by themselves, 
although they are dwarfed by the tremendous shadow of the Benefactor. 
As long as they respect his dominant position, Trujillo allows the rest of 
the clan to act very much as they please but he does not have any inten- 
tion of letting anyone replace him. For trespassing some of his brothers 
have tasted the bitter flavor of the exile life, although never for long and 
always in grand style. 

"Little Brother" Hector Bienvenido (Negro), the "president," is prob- 
ably Rafael's closest collaborator, but even he is not permitted to share 
either genuine power or prominence with "Big Brother." For instance, the 
Dominican press publishes long lists of the Generalissimo's engagements, 
but not of the President's. Rafael's picture almost invariably appears on 
page one, but Hector's only on rare occasions. The Supreme Chief heads 
the receiving line at state receptions, the Chief Executive follows. The dic- 
tator is played up over his brother even in official Government propaganda 
disseminated abroad so little regard does Trujillo have for ordinary po- 
litical etiquette. Yet, if nothing happens to the Benefactor within the next 
four years the chances are that "president" Hector will continue his hu- 
miliating daily walks from one wing of the National Palace to the other 
to receive instructions and carry out orders for his brother. 

Hector, now 48, is a swarthy, homely, mild-mannered, cultured man of 
no small personal charm, who has lived all his life under the protective 
wing of the Benefactor. His blind loyalty to the Generalissimo is well 
known and he will never dare to disagree with his brother's policies. H6c- 
tor has gone as far as calling brother Rafael, in an official presidential 
speech, his "father." If he has a mind of his own he has certainly achieved 
the feat of concealing it. 

Hector joined the Army at the age of eighteen, in 1926, and began to 
get rapid promotions four years later, when brother Rafael took power. 
During that time he had been preparing himself to enter the University of 


Santo Domingo where he intended to study dentistry. This he never did. 
During the early days of the regime he was a military attache in several 
European capitals, while Ms brother tested unsuccessfully the reliability 
and political acumen of elder brothers. Finally Rafael decided to try the 
youngest brother. The "little brother" was in the long run entrusted with 
the most important and perhaps most difficult task of the regime control 
of the armed forces. He successively served as chief of the staff of the Na- 
tional Army and Minister of War, Navy and Air, before being "elected" to 
the Presidency when brother Rafael decided to step out, in 1952, to play 
the bigger, loftier role of Super Chief of State. 

There are people who think, even inside the Dominican Republic, that 
if left alone Hector would follow a more moderate course than Rafael. 
This is a difficult thing to ascertain. There is no doubt that Hector is mel- 
lower than Rafael and has a genuine sense of humor. But there have been 
periods in which Rafael has gone out of the country and left Hector in. 
charge. At those times terror has not been relaxed in any form. 

Lately the legend of Hector's mildness has been put back in circulation 
by people highly placed in Dominican official circles. One of them told 
Milton Bracker, of the New York Times, that "the president is important." 

To clarify the statement the following exchange ensued: 

"When the visitor asks, 'Because of the Constitution?' the officer says: 
To hell with the Constitution. As a transformer.' 

"And he makes clear that those in the highest circles around Generalis- 
simo Trujillo are so terrified of the ire or displeasure of the Jefe (Chief) 
that a 'transformer' literally a device to step down a voltage that can 
destroy is important to those who feel they may have risked that ire." 

I do not share the "transformer" theory about Hector. It is true he can- 
not be blamed for the brutal tactics of his big brother, but there is no 
proof that he would act otherwise had the opportunity of ruling entirely by 
himself come unexpectedly. I believe that a much better appraisal of Hec- 
tor's role is that of Theodore Draper, who wrote: "Yet Hector was always 
the younger brother who did not have to fight to get ahead. He did not 
have to develop the ruthlessness and cunning of the older brother. Hector 
is considered a rather shy, pleasant and moderate person. The question 
is whether he will develop his brother's more brutal qualities if he has to 
stand alone." 

Like other members of the Trujillo clan Hector combines the talents of 
a prosperous businessman with those of a gentleman farmer. He shares 
ownership with J. M. Bonetti Burgos of one of the most lucrative Domini- 
can monopolies the peanut oil manufacturing concern, which sells about 
80 per cent of the edible oil consumed in the country. Besides accumulat- 
ing money (unlike Rafael he is stingy), Hector's only known hobby is to 
collect shoes, of which he has hundreds of pairs. 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 222 

The "president" lives at his mother's home although he has another 
residence on his enormous estate of Engombe, a few miles north of the 
capital. He is an inveterate bachelor, but for the last twenty years has 
been engaged to Miss Alma McLaughlin. According to Milton Bracker: 
"a popular explanation for the protracted engagement is that the Gen- 
eralissimo, having both a wife . . . and a living mother, feels that another 
First Lady i.e., the wife of the President would complicate protocol." 

This can hardly be the case since Trujillo has already managed suc- 
cessfully such a situation before. During the period 1938-1942, when 
the two puppet presidents of the time were married men, there were three 
first ladies in the country. Nearer to the truth is another version, given to 
Bracker by a Government official, that "it seems unlikely the President 
will do so while their mother is alive." 

The "president's" fiancee is a daughter of Charles A. McLaughlin, a 
longtime Trujillo crony who first came to the country as a U.S. Marine 
Sergeant in 1917. He became a Dominican citizen in 1956 and is a Colonel 
in the staff of his future son-in-law. He also acts as proxy of the Bene- 
factor in a number of business enterprises. He now presides over the cor- 
poration that "bought" the formerly Government-owned Jaragua and El 
Embajador hotels, in partnership with a subsidiary of Pan American World 

Unquestionably Rafael trusts Hector enough to leave him at the helm 
when he goes on extended tours abroad. It is doubtful that he would do 
this with his elder brother Virgilio. In the early days of the regime Vir- 
gilio occupied high ranking positions, but it seems that instead of obeying 
he tried to do some thinking for himself. Rafael has the idea, however, 
that he does not need around him men with independent minds or exces- 
sive ambitions of their own. Virgilio's tinkering with the administration of 
civil justice coupled with an obvious jealousy of RafaeFs absolute power 
made him an uncomfortable partner, but "the Chief" put up with this 
patiently until he discovered with no small chagrin that, taking advantage 
of his position as Minister of Interior and Police, Virgilio was reaching 
into every accessible trujillista domain, tirelessly wooing political chieftains 
and army leaders, trying to establish a machine that would owe allegiance 
only to him. 

That was too much. Thereupon Virgilio was promptly assigned to a 
diplomatic mission and sent abroad to brood. For several years he per- 
formed as his brother's Minister to the French Government in what proved 
to be a very gilded exile. For Virgilio Trujillo the Dominican Legation in 
Paris turned out to be a business blessing. There, even if he was miles away 
from any possibility of taking the longed-for big step to ultimate power 
among Dominicans he was, nevertheless, in an excellent position to con- 
tinue his search "for a fast buck," 


Hitler had already created the refugee problem when Virgilio arrived 
in Paris. Then came the Spanish Civil War. The Dominican Legation was 
swamped with requests for visas made by people seeking haven in the 
New World and willing to pay any price for a small stamp on their pass- 
ports. Those with considerable means found in Virgilio a man who could 
give service even if he charged a high price. 

Capitalizing on human suffering behind the cloak of an alleged humani- 
tarianism, one of the most repugnant rackets was established by the Tru- 
jillo brothers in Paris the selling for exorbitant prices, either in cash or 
jewels, of Dominican passports and visas. Both brothers were in partner- 
ship again, but not for long. The visa factory soon got Virgilio in hot water 
with "big brother" again. Not because the Benefactor objected to the 
questionable activities, but because he thought Virgilio was cheating 
him of his share of the spoils. Virgilio was dismissed summarily; he de- 
cided that it was safer to stay away for a while. Later he came back and a 
reconciliation took effect, but when Virgilio started acting anew as "Mr. 
Supreme Court," taking away business from the boss himself, he was 
again shipped out of the country this time as an Ambassador, Inspector 
of Embassies and Legations. 

If Hector is self-effacing and Virgilio untrustworthy, Arismendy, an- 
other of the Trujillo boys, is more than a phenomenon; he is a portent. 
He is a man who moves fast, even for a Trujillo. 

Petan, as he is better known in the country, is all kinds of things to 
all men and, moreover, at all times. He is an army man (lieutenant gen- 
eral) ; a patron of the arts (owner of the largest chain of radio broadcast- 
ing and television stations) ; a gambling kingpin (as owner of a night-club 
casino); big businessman (in the import and export field); and a clever 
manipulator of shady business deals and protection rackets. He, too, has 
cherished dreams of taking for himself all that wonderful power that 
Rafael holds. He too discovered that it is all right with Rafael if one of 
his kin is not particular about the means of acquiring riches, but it is quite 
another thing if one of them sets his eyes on political power. 

Before learning his lesson, Petan had to suffer a bad experience. In 
1935, taking advantage of the fact that the Benefactor was sick in bed, 
Petn hatched a plot to win power. Warned by his Secret Police, the 
Generalissimo acted with ruthlessness and speed. Of all the conspirators 
the only one spared was Petan himself and this only because the army 
commander in charge of the mopping-up operation thought wise for Ms 
future safety to warn Petan in advance. Without bothering to say a word 
ta his fellow conspirators, Petdn took refuge, literally speaking, under his 
mother's bed. A few days later as an extra safety measure he took a plane 
to Puerto Rico. 

After a cooling off period, Petan promised to behave and mind there- 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 224 

after only his own business. Rafael then pardoned his brother and allowed 
him to engage in the very reputable activities of promoting the cultural 
and artistic progress of the country through a multiple million-dollar radio 
and television empire. 

On the sidelines Petan built up a very profitable organization to oversee 
what is called in the Dominican argot the export of jrutos menores, that is 
to say a combination of vegetables, poultry and other agricultural prod- 
ucts. In accordance with this set-up every exporter must take Petan as a 
partner or at least pay him tribute for his "protection," independently of 
the payments they have to make the Benefactor himself through other 
organizations. Otherwise Petan gunmen wipe out the recalcitrants with the 
precision of a Detroit assembly line. Currently, Petan exacts a few cents 
on each stem of bananas exported from the country by any corporation or 
individual (with the exception of the big American corporations), and 
$1 for every box of plantains. Exporters of poultry pay him a flat rate of 
$10,000 per year for a permit to stay in business. Each truck that passes 
through the town of Bonao Petan's stronghold on the Cibao road must 
pay a fee. 

Slowly but inexorably Pet&n's interests have broadened until they have 
come to include control of the garment industry, slot machines, gambling 
casinos and loan shark rackets. La Vox. Dominicana, Petan's radio net- 
work, is not only a big propaganda outlet the Trujillo regime uses to 
give "the full treatment" to foreign governments and enemies of the regime. 
It is also the vehicle of one of the most lucrative international numbers 
rackets, which operated by a mobsters' syndicate spreads out through the 
length of the Caribbean. The "hoods" in Havana, Panama and Caracas 
sell numbers in combination with a seemingly harmless Voz Dominicana's 
raffle supposedly intended as a giveaway of small prizes to its Dominican 
audience. The syndicate rigs the daily winning numbers in their own favor 
and then cable them to Arismendy who dutifully announces them over his 
radio station. This peculiar racket known in Panama as La Dominicana 
produces a weekly income to Petn figured in five ciphers. This, how- 
ever, is by no means all profit for Petan. Part of the proceeds have to be 
turned over to the Benefactor himself, who has a pronounced allergy to 
the sight of other people getting too wealthy, even his own brothers. The 
latter appear as a front in many businesses and rackets ultimately owned 
by the Generalissimo. 

If we wish to grasp the whole meaning of what is happening in the Do- 
minican Republic, let us free our imagination for just a second and let it 
picture what would happen were people of the ilk of Lucky Luciano, Al 
Capone, Albert Anastasia and their relatives, good as well as bad, to 
take over the White House. 

There are other brothers and sisters also in business. General Pedro 


Trujillo is one of the least known of them. He specializes in settling small 
lawsuits of the kind the Benefactor would not bother with and controls 
the charcoal distribution monopoly in Ciudad Trujillo. He is the overlord 
of all the mess operations in the National Army, but the profits from 
this very remunerative operation must be shared with brothers Hector and 
Rafael. He shares the rest of the Family passion for owning land and for 
buying it on their own terms. 

Then we have Romeo, better known as Pipi. He is a tough who after 
twenty-seven years of power still acts as in the old days. The black sheep 
of the family, he never rose above the Army rank of captain, and is not 
allowed to present himself where decent people can see him, although he 
was dressed in white tie and tails, for the first time in Ms life, to accom- 
pany brother Hector at his inauguration as President in 1957. Pipi reg- 
ulates prostitution and small gambling houses. His activities along these 
lines have put him at odds with other members of the clan at times. Time 
once printed the following story then going the rounds inside the country: 
"Prostitutes in the Dominican Republic are called cueros (hides). Once 
Petan slapped a levy on exports of cattle hides. Pip! objected. Their mother, 
one of the First Ladies of the Land, decided the case. 'None of that, 
Petan,' she admonished. 'You know the cueros belong to Pipi.' " 

In all the years since Trujillo has been in power the clan has suffered 
only one casualty, aside from Don Pepe. Brother Anibal lodged a bullet in 
his own head on December 2, 1948, although there are people in the Do- 
minican Republic who swear the man was incapable of doing such a 
thing to himself to others, maybe. 

The truth is however that Anibal was a paranoiac, whose sickness be- 
came more accentuated after a tour of duty as chief of staff of the National 
Army. It seems that instability runs heavily in Anibal's side of the Family, 
since in the summer of 1957 his son Marcos had to be taken, according 
to press reports, to a Mexican sanitarium. 

Anibal also had his share of trouble with "Big Brother." Rumor has 
it in the Dominican Republic that he was dismissed from the Army on 
account of the competition he was giving the Benefactor in the matter of 
uniforms. Dominicans still recall with inner amusement Anibal's colorful 
dress uniforms and red capes cut in the best Napoleonic tradition. 

Of Rafael's sisters the one who looks most like her brother is Nieves 
Luisa. She is a business woman and very experienced in all kind of 
worldly practices. In her youth she emigrated to Cuba and there is no 
question that she hates to hear about her Cuban interlude. She is now in 
the renting business. This is a special kind of business peculiar to the 
Dominican Republic. Since World War II a system of rent control has 
been in full force. Nieves is in the business of renting homes from their 
owners at the control levels and then subletting them at her own high 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 226 

levels. If the tenant dares to complain to the rent control authorities the 
chances are that he will land in jail the following morning, arraigned on 
charges of "communist activities." 

There are three other sisters but these are very discreet ladies indeed. 
Japonesa, who is the constant companion of her mother, is married to 
Luis Ruiz Monteagudo, a member of Congress and prosperous business- 
man (shoes). They are also big landowners. Japonesa is the mother-in-law 
of Dr. Ramon Berges, currently Dominican Ambassador to France. Her 
son, Dr. Luis Trujillo, is at present the Secretary of the Presidency, one of 
the most important cabinet posts in the trujillista set-up. This young man 
is also a lawyer with a large corporation practice. 

Marina, another sister, is married to Senator Jose Garcia, a former 
major general and chief of staff of the National Army. She is the mother 
of two army generals: Lieutenant General Jose Garcia Trujillo, currently 
the Secretary of the Armed Forces and as such second in line to succeed 
the President; the younger son is major general Virgilio Garcia Trujillo, 
who after a long period in the trujillista doghouse was reinstated Novem- 
ber 1957 in his old post of chief of staff of the Army. 

Another member of this branch of the family is Dr. Joaquin Salazar, 
former cabinet member and ambassador, and now head of a law firm in 
Ciudad Trujillo. He is the husband of Lourdes Garcia Trujillo. Salazar 
was recalled in March 1957 from his post as Dominican Ambassador to 
the United States, and "benched" until assigned to a new cabinet post. 
Salazar heatedly denies that the flurry over the Galindez case had anything 
to do with his replacement by Trujillo's longtime associate, Manuel de 
Moya. Salazar points out he had been in the foreign service for eleven 
years, but in Washington's diplomatic circles there is the feeling that he 
was recalled when the reaction in the U.S. to the Galindez case got "out of 

Another of Marina's daughters, Mireya, is married to an Army general: 
Jose (Pupo) Roman Fernandez. 


twenty-seven years in an atmosphere of directed, frenetic adulation, cre- 
ated to make him seem one of the truly immortal figures of history. 

There is no more lucrative occupation in the country than devising new 
kinds of homage to the Generalissimo. Yet, as time passes the praise fac- 
tories find it increasingly difficult to fill their quotas of new forms of adula- 
tion and in recent years there has been a pronounced tendency to tedious 
repetition. For example, although he has never fought a single military 
battle, "the Chief has already been awarded two medals for alleged acts 
of bravery as a triumphant and courageous general. Bejewelled collars 
(for which Trujillo seems to feel a particular deep affection) have been 
bestowed upon him at least twice. One of these costly trinkets (perhaps 
the costliest of its kind in existence) is called the "Collar of National 
Gratitude." To match it Trujillo has decided to haaig democracy around 
his neck in the form of the so-called "Collar of Democracy," a gift from 
the University students. 

Since Christianity as a way of life took root in the consciousness of 
the Western peoples no ruler has ever dared to associate Ms name with 
the name of God on an equal footing. There have been, to be sure, those 
who have ascribed divine origin to their right to rule and those who have 
denied altogether the existence of God and consider religions as the 
"Opium of the People." But there is no other example of a President, 
King, Emperor or Dictator who has claimed, as Trujillo now claims, 
a place alongside that of the Almighty. No other ruler of modern times 
has ever used, in order to further his own ends, a slogan such as the 
notorious "God and Trujillo" which appears in neon lights and academic 
theses in the Dominican Republic. 

Moreover, by Act of Congress time is measured in Trujilloland from 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 228 

the Generalissimo's coming to power 1957 is the 28th year of the Era 
of Trujillo, and laws, official decrees as well as legal documents, must so 
state. Oaths of loyalty like the impressive one publicly made by 30,000 
workers on May 1, 1956 are rendered not to God but to Trujillo. In 
1942 when Congress named San Rafael one of the Dominican provinces 
it took pains to make clear in the text of the law then being passed that it 
was an honor to Trujillo himself. No one can ever address Trujillo as 
"you." It is always "Your Excellency," "Your Honor," "You Lord of the 
People" and the like. 

Trujillo began collecting titles of which he has several score early 
in his career. He was officially proclaimed "Benefactor of the Fatherland" 
by a Congressional Resolution of November 11, 1932. The rank of Gen- 
eralissimo of all Dominican armed forces was conferred on him by law 
passed on May 25, 1933. In 1938 Congress declared him "The First and 
Greatest of the Dominican Chiefs of State" and hi 1940 passed a law 
giving him the additional title of "Restorer of the Financial Independence 
of the Republic." 

Furthermore, Trujillo is the Liberator of the Nation and the Protector 
of the Beaux Arts and Letters. By common consent "the Chief" is the 
country's number one statesman, journalist, hero, teacher, man of justice, 
guardian of the people and genius of thought. The new Dominican consti- 
tution, as amended in 1955, not only consecrates the titles of Benefactor 
and Father of the New Fatherland, but declares to be "national monu- 
ments" all the statues, busts, monuments that the "national gratitude" has 
erected or will erect to honor Trujillo. 

At the entrance of Santiago Trujillo's 13-foot gold-plate statue stares 
down on the second largest city of the country from the base of the largest 
monument ever built for a living man. The citizens of Ciudad Trujillo are 
casting for him a 23-foot-tall equestrian statue, which, according to Murray 
Kempton, is "the largest of its kind ever built for anyone, living or dead, in 
5,000 years of recorded human vanity." There are at least two other gigantic 
statues in process of erection, one of them in the Benefactor's home town 
of San Crist6bal. 

If Trujillo's statues are still not very numerous in the country, it is be- 
cause for many years his superstitious nature opposed this kind of homage. 
The only other living Dominican president who ever ordered a statue of 
himself, Ulises Heaureaux, was murdered before the monument was 
shipped from Spain where it had been cast. 

Busts, however, are another thing. "The Big One" has never objected 
to them and to date there are more than 1,800 overlooking parks, streets, 
colleges, hospitals and offices throughout the country. Sometimes the bust 
even adorns respectable, law-abiding, police-fearing homes. Judging by the 
news stories about the Congress sessions it seems that one of the main func- 


tions of the Dominican legislature is to pass resolutions authorizing one 
community or another to erect new busts of either the Generalissimo or 
some member of his family. The manufacture of busts of "His Excellency" 
has become one of the most profitable business operations in the country 
and there is at least one factory, owned by a Spaniard named Dorado, which 
turns out nothing but busts. There comes to mind the story of another 
Spaniard refugee sculptor whose main occupation was for years to sell busts 
of the Benefactor to the municipalities. Noticing that for some time the 
sculptor was not showing his accustomed activity, a friend of his dared to 
ask a newspaper reporter whether the Spaniard had fallen out of grace. 
"No," was the reply. "The trouble is that we seem to have been running 
out of parks lately." 

Though there is a law forbidding giving the names of living persons to 
cities and streets, during Trujillo's lifetime there have been cities, streets, 
parks and provinces named after him. In 1932 a province was named 
"Trujillo" and his home town San Cristobal was made the capital of it. Then 
the capital city, always known as "Santo Domingo de Guzman," the name 
it was given by Bartholomew Columbus in 1496, was rebaptized Ciudad 
Trujillo. Subsequently other provinces were named "Libertador," "Benefac- 
tor" and "Trujillo Valdez," the latter after Trujillo's father. Even nature has 
had to pay its homage to the Benefactor the highest mountain in the An- 
tilles has been named Trujillo Peak, in accordance with a law passed on 
September 21, 1936. 

The dizziest heights of flattery are reached every year on October 24, 
Trujillo's birthday. This provides the occasion for a national orgy of 
government-directed adulation. This, however, is not the only holiday pro- 
claimed for Trujillo. There is the "Day of the Benefactor," which is cele- 
brated the second Sunday of January to commemorate the changing of name 
of the capital city. May 16 is marked red on Dominican calendars on ac- 
count of the fact that on that day in 1930 Trujillo was first "elected" 
President. In the religion of trujillismo this is like a New Year's Day. 

The common people never catch a glimpse of the Benefactor in anything 
less than an environment of glory. Recently, however, the pageantry has 
been severely curtailed and the Generalissimo makes almost no public ap- 
pearances. Ever since some Latins have acquired the distasteful custom of 
sacrificing their own lives in order to get their fellow citizens rid of unsavory 
tyrants, Trujillo's only regular appearance, aside from his daily walk in the 
closely watched George Washington Avenue, is to the race tracks on Sun- 
days, where he is surrounded by a very thick wall of bodyguards. 

Yet, when "the Big One" deigns to appear in public after overcoming 
a not unnatural fear of being shot at he comes in view of the Dominican 
people in well-arranged theatrical settings. The ceremonies then take on the 
nature of triumphal pageantry and "the Chiefs" presence is the signal for 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 230 

orderly cheers from the big claque of school-children, government employees, 
union members, "veterans" and slum hoodlums. 

Of all means of flattery Trujillo prefers pictorial reproductions of his facial 
features. The Benefactor is so much in love with himself that he regards as 
the supreme sign of devotion to his person the keeping of one of his pic- 
tures. Those who do not have in their homes a lithograph, painting, sketch 
or photograph of the Generalissimo are liable to be branded "communists." 
When searching a home the secret police regard the failure to produce a 
picture of Trujillo as the strongest evidence of lack of loyalty. 

The thoroughness with which the Benefactor is humored by his people 
has brought about a peculiar situation. No matter the place, "Big Brother" 
will always watch over the people, actually or metaphysically, in the Do- 
minican Republic. "The Big One" is on every wall staring down at his sub- 
jects and visitors benign looking, stern, serious, smiling or enigmatic. The 
photographs have, nevertheless, a common feature: all flatter the man; not 
a strange thing, after all, if it is recalled that no picture of "the Chief" may 
be put on display without prior official verification of its "artistic merits." 

From the excellence of drinking water (which is very good) to the modern 
labor legislation (which is hardly enforced) everything done in the country 
must be attributed to the Generalissimo. Even the "president" will not send 
a message to Congress proposing a new bill without first assuring the legis- 
lators that he is acting in compliance with the Generalissimo's wishes. 

And what is not done by Trujillo is accomplished for him. When the over- 
burdened Dominican taxpayers threw down the drain $40 millions of their 
hard-earned money in an International Fair for the Peace and Brotherhood 
of the Free World the only tangible achievement to come out of the project 
was a sickening process of glorification of Trujillo and his family. The Fair 
was expected to attract tourists and investment capital to the country, but 
as Time put it, "its essential purpose was expressed by a fair official in a 
pep talk to English-speaking guides: 'This great international exposition is 
a tribute in homage, admiration and respect to the illustrious Benefactor.' " 

One of the huge murals with Trujillo as the central figure displayed at the 
armed-forces building was very amusing. The two-part mural depicted on 
one side Columbus aboard the Santa Maria, and on the other Trujillo on 
the bridge of a Dominican warship. Read the explanatory legend: "462 
years after Columbus' voyage, Generalissimo Trujillo in command of three 
powerful Dominican naval units, set out on a good-will voyage to Spain." 

It has become customary to fill the walls of public monuments and gov- 
ernment as well as party buildings with quotations from Trujillo's speeches. 
"Trujillo Forever" and similar slogans convey the message of the new 
trujillista gospel to the people in short, direct sentences. On stone pillars 
beside the doors of hotels, public buildings, military establishments and 
schools, bronze letters say: "Era of TrajiUo." Buses, trucks, automobiles, 


bicycles, pushcarts, even shoeshine boxes are adorned with the ever-present, 
oft-repeated "God and Trujfflo," as well as the more indirect "Trujillo Is 
My Protector" and "Long Live Trujillo." 

The Government hospitals are decorated with signs reading "Only Trujillo 
Cures Us." At village pumps, "Only Trujfflo Gives Us to Drink." Beside 
each irrigation ditch the posters read: "Trujillo Is the Only One Who Gives 
Us Water," "Seeds Grow Because of the Water Trujillo Gives Us" or 
"Crops Are Plentiful Because Trujillo Has Given Us All the Water We 
Need." These placards are set up, of course, by the "grateful" fanners them- 
selves. They do it, however, on their own free will or else! Those who do 
not show the required enthusiasm are denied access to the irrigation facili- 
ties by the Departamento de Recursos Hidrdulicos always on account of 
some minor technicality; nothing to do with politics indeed! 

Theodore Draper, the American reporter whose perceptive remarks on 
the Trujillo regime have been frequently quoted in this book, depicts this 
situation in the following terms: "There is literally not a single shop or busi- 
ness of any kind without a picture of Trujillo prominently displayed. A 
truck passes and on its bumper is painted: Trujillo es mi protector. A flimsy 
little shack used for selling a few bottles of soft drink bears the sign: Dios y 
Trujillo son mi fe, 'God and Trujillo Are My Faith.' With a broad grin a 
shoe-shine boy shows off all his English 'Gringo, shine?' and his box 
reads Viva Trujillo! It is as if the dictator were everywhere, watching 
everything, knowing everyone." 

The amazing process of deification is by no means restricted to the Bene- 
factor's person. Streets, towns, provinces, bridges, roads, hospitals, parks 
and schools have been named after his relatives from two generations be- 
fore "the Chief" to two generations after. There are as many busts of Tru- 
jillo's mother as of "the Chief" himself and the trend now is to erect that 
kind of monument to the "little brother." 

Early in Ms career Trujillo was advised that postage stamps are a good 
means for imposing one's face without risking painful rebuffs. Right from 
the outset of the regime the Dominican post offices have had a large stock 
of stamps bearing Trujillo's face. It also offers a choice of other members 
of the family. There is one issue featuring Mama Julia, another with Don 
Pepe's face. Ramfis' baby face is there for sale also, as well as a whole set 
with Hector's homely fagade. For the same price, however, buyers have a 
choice of the prettier face of Angelita, 

Trujillo's efforts to gain recognition in international circles have not 
been always unsuccessful. The University of Pittsburgh, in the United States, 
bestowed upon him an honorary degree of doctor and more than forty gov- 
ernments, beginning with the dictatorships of Mussolini and Juan Vincente 
Gomes and ending with the Vatican, have awarded the Benefactor their 
highest decorations, Wrote Dr. de Galindez: U I very much doubt that any 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 232 

other tyrant has succeeded in assembling so picturesque a collection of titles, 
decorations and honorary degrees." 

All this may seem elaborate nonsense and I suspect that Trujillo knows 
it, although sometimes he acts as if he believes in it. In view of his record, 
however, there is one thing Trujillo has never been able to get rid of even 
after having reached the demigod status his "nouveau riche" complex. 

During his trips abroad, mainly to the United States, he loves to play a 
splashy role. In 1952 and 1953 he visited the United States and during his 
stay abroad the Dominican press dutifully gave a big play to his alleged new 

Upon that occasion Trujillo was host at a lavish reception in the May- 
flower Hotel's Chinese Room and an adjoining ballroom. The decorations 
included 1,000 red roses; the buffet table was 50 feet long; the service was 
of gold; champagne bubbled from lighted fountains. "Washington hasn't 
seen anything like last night for a long time," wrote a Washington Post 
society reporter. 

Some twenty months later, in 1955, he visited again the United States 
and Newsweek wrote: "Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina and entourage de- 
parted from Kansas City, Mo., last week after a three-week visit and left 
the town enough to talk about for three more." 

This time Trujillo showed off in great style. His first move when he got 
to town was to establish credit at the Commerce Trust Co., whose executive 
vice president was A. B. Eisenhower, President Eisenhower's brother. With 
the credit, whose amount was not revealed but was estimated at close to 
$200,000, Trujillo got down to business. According to Newsweek he had 
gone to Kansas City principally to buy American cattle and cattle-working 
horses. He also wanted to see former President Truman (as he did at a party 
given at the Kansas City Club) and while in the city his daughter Angelita 
underwent a minor operation at the hands of Dr. Wallace Graham, former 
White House physician. 

His departure, wrote Newsweek, was something to see. "A reception was 
held the night before for more than 700 guests, hastily invited by telegram, 
at which the main feature was champagne from a fountain." Always the 
parvenu, the Benefactor departed once again from the United States leav- 
ing no doubt that for him champagne from a fountain is the utmost expres- 
sion of refinement. 

Worse, however, than his displays of megalomania are the hypocritical 
shows of modesty the Generalissimo occasionally stages. Thus, not being 
sure of the domestic as well as international reactions when, twenty-two 
years ago, somebody or other first tried to change the name of the capital 
city from Santo Domingo to Ciudad Trujillo he perfunctorily recorded his 
opposition to the idea and then left the Presidency and went on vacation. 

Ever since visitors have been reminded how the Benefactor suffered when 


the members of his Congress finally voted unanimously to give his name to 
the oldest city of the New World, founded and baptized in 1496 by Barto- 
lomeo Columbus. It is pointed out that Trujillo wrote a lengthy letter ob- 
jecting to the proposed congressional measure. He then asserted that the 
homage filled him with satisfaction and legitimate pride, but he could not 
accept it because "such a project, for which I personally thank you pro- 
foundly, is in frank opposition to one of the plans which I hold most dear 
as a lover of my country and as a leader that of keeping the Dominican 
nation intimately linked with its glorious traditions, which constitute the 
most interesting pages of the New World Civilization." 

Trujillo's followers, led by his erstwhile collaborator Senator Mario 
Fermin Cabral (slated to receive six years later as a token of gratitude a 
Trajillo-imposed jail sentence) were not satisfied with their idol's refusal. 
The rejection of Cabral's plan only spurred their desires to show their deep 
affection for the Chief. To overrule his objections, a "tremendous" petition 
to the National Congress was set in motion. On January 9, 1936, it was 
definitively presented to both chambers of Congress, backed by 599,173 
signatures, a third of the population, including newly born children. 

This time Congress obliged under popular pressure, although there is no 
record of anyone trying to verify the authenticity of the names or even 
bothering to count them. Without consulting Trujillo, who had gone on vaca- 
tion a few days earlier, the Vice President Dr. Jacinto B. Peynado, acting as 
Chief of State, signed the law. This was the only time that Trujillo's power 
proved inadequate, commented Theodore Draper. 

No one, even his closest associates, can ascertain for sure whether or not 
Trujillo believes all the flattery that is poured upon him from all quarters 
of the country and even from beyond the nation's boundaries. As an all-out 
megalomaniac Trujillo enjoys deeply all the dancing before the throne. He 
not only loves all the pageantry and adulation in which he is submerged 
and which he encourages by every means, but he would not be able to live 
one day without it. He derives genuine pleasure from hearing his sycophants 
proclaiming, in public as well as in private, that he is the greatest statesman 
of the age, the most generous, the most intelligent and the most beloved. 



empty lot today) in the then poverty-stricken small village of San Cristobal, 
there was hardly a piece of bread in the squalid Trujillo house. Sixty-six 
years later the self-styled Benefactor of a country of almost three million in- 
habitants and of humanity at large, if we are going to believe a host of press 
agents, stands on his own feet with a fortune of more than $500,000,000 
as one of the handful of men who can make a legitimate claim to member- 
ship in the most exclusive club in the world that of the billionaires and 
near billionaires. 

It seems incredible that a man who in 1917 was a simple guard in a sugar 
plantation in the heart of a backward country should be able to scale in a 
few years the highest pinnacles of wealth, without ever dedicating a single 
day to any genuine business activity. 

Trujillo's saga is not fable, however. His accomplishment leaves the realm 
of phantasy the moment it is taken into consideration that, like half the 
people with fortunes exceeding the half-billion dollar mark, Trujillo is the 
despotic ruler of an oppressed, underdeveloped nation. 

In the manner of the Robber Barons of the earlier American capitalism, 
the Generalissimo has clawed his way up to the highest levels of material 
wealth, although unlike those colorful moguls of the heyday of American 
predatory, unrestricted capitalism, there is nothing heroic in the ascent of 
the Dominican tyrant to the summit of the "Very Rich Club." 

The latter day Dominican tycoon, and the small group of relatives and 
associates whom he allows for short periods to belong to his court, have 
exploited the national resources without restraint or heed to considerations 


of national interest; they have made private capital out of the public domain 
and used the wealth of the land in every conceivable way to feather their 
own nests. Judging by the way Trujillo and his acolytes do things, these men 
have never heard of such a thing as a "conflict of interest." Indeed, there 
are many points of contact in the respective philosophies of Trujillo and 
the Becks, HoflEas and et al., although if the teamsters' chieftains are supe- 
rior to the Benefactor on any point it is that notwithstanding their repeated 
recourse to the Fifth Amendment they are less hypocritical than Trujillo. 
Although he would indignantly reject such a comparison, there is no doubt 
that in practice Trujillo subscribes to Hoffa's famous candid statement to 
the effect that "either you are honest or you are dishonest. This conflict of 
interest thing doesn't mean a damn thing unless it means a man's judgment 
is affected." In other words, as long as you know what you are doing, you 
are free to do whatever pleases you. 

Thus, in the hands of the Benefactor the immense powers of legislation, 
taxation, customs systems and tariffs, quantitative economic controls and re- 
strictions and so forth, have been used almost exclusively for the furthering 
of the private interests of his own clan and the small coterie of military and 
civilian henchmen who surround him. In the fields they have invaded, Tru- 
jillo and his men have killed off, sometimes with the help of a very accom- 
modating due process of law, competing and independent business. 

Unquestionably, to pile up Trujillo's wealth in a small country of 
2,698,126 inhabitants, who make on the average (whenever they work for a 
monetary salary) a little over a dollar a day, requires special talents. Never- 
theless, the main ingredients of the strange compound that made possible 
such a fantastic accumulation of wealth within such a short time are ruth- 
lessness and sheer lack of scruples in dealing with innocent third parties. 

"The Big One" does not recognize nor respect commitments with anyone* 
Trujillo has compiled an unbelievable record of perjury and misleading 
commitments. Honesty has never been one of his preoccupations. Extortion 
has always been one of the resources par excellence of the Benefactor. When 
he wants a thing he first tries to get it by "legal" means and usually makes, 
before taking it over, a reasonably fair offer (particularly if the proprietor 
of the coveted business or real estate is a foreigner), but whenever refused 
he forgets about paying for it and takes whatever he wants. 

With the passing of time Trujillo's extortions have grown to involve such 
enormous amounts of money that the common citizen no longer recognizes 
the familiar swindle. It is said, among the many cynics dictatorship has bred 
in the island, that the Dominican Academy of History is contemplating a 
new interpretation of the role of larceny in organized society throughout 
the ages. As a result the Academy is expected to declare formally that lar- 
ceny is robbery, but grand larceny is glory. Then the Benefactor will be 
officially declared the most glorious citizen of the nation. 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 236 

Trujillo's defenders, sometimes at a loss and always short of arguments 
on this tricky terrain, contend that in the process of enriching himself "the 
Big One" has also enriched others. They also argue that as a result of the 
Benefactor's enterprise, imagination and resourcefulness, the country as a 
whole has gained a full measure of prosperity. The former argument has 
some foundation, but the latter is totally misleading. It is true that the 
Dominican Republic shows many signs of outward prosperity, but as ex- 
plained elsewhere its good times are due chiefly to the solid price of coffee, 
sugar and cocoa in foreign markets. Moreover, as anyone who has tried to 
interest Trujillo in any sort of project knows, he only pays attention to those 
schemes that promise a fast return with a minimum of capital and effort. 

It may well be that Trujillo has come to identify his own welfare with 
that of the country, but the truth is that very few projects which are not 
directly beneficial for the Benefactor, or that at least promise to bring about 
definite advantages for him, have ever been undertaken in the country. The 
reigning family or their proxies figure as stockholders of practically every 
profitable corporation in the country. As a result every product a person 
buys in the country's stores, domestic or imported, means, in one way or 
another, actual cash money in the pockets of the Benefactor. 

As a result, very few private new businesses have been started in the 
country during the last decade. Notwithstanding Government-avowed pro- 
tection of foreign capital, the latter, especially American, has been with- 
drawing from the country at an exceedingly fast rate. The trend has not 
been upset even by the big business enterprises in the mining field started 
by the Benefactor in partnership with American and Canadian interests. 
Trujillo is becoming a little concerned over the fact that his monopolistic 
methods have become a matter of growing international concern. Accord- 
ingly he has instructed his close associate and Ambassador to the United 
States, Manuel de Moya Alonzo, to put up for sale as many of Trujillo's 
enterprises as he finds buyers for. Thus far all the signs are that Ambassa- 
dor de Moya has found very few gullible capitalists willing to risk the un- 
certainties of doing business under the suffocating wing of the Gener- 

Prior to Mr. de Moya's efforts, some steps were taken within the Domin- 
ican Republic itself to lessen emphasis upon Trujillo's role in the economic 
life of the country. Jesus Maria Troncoso, the regime's financial wizard, 
chairman of the Trujillo-owned sugar corporations and "Gray Eminence 7 * 
of the Administration, assured a visiting American reporter that "it is abso- 
lutely not true that the Generalissimo is as rich as some say he is." 

Troncoso also denied that Trujillo owns a single corporation although 
he admitted that the Benefactor "will contribute capital to any new indus- 
try." Then he added: "Trujillo has not one cent abroad. The sugar mills 
have been sold to the agricultural bank. He leads, after all, a very quiet and 


frugal life. He lives strictly as a soldier. He walks a lot. He doesn't enjoy 
the delicacies of life except perhaps the best horse. 

"Why should he need money? He has, after all, power, which is the im- 
portant thing." 

The reporter then said: If Trujillo is not so rich, how come he can afford 
to keep an empty presidential suite in each of the two largest tourist hotels 
in the capital city; to hire foreign polo players to teach his sons the sport of 
princes; to maintain 25 cars, three yachts, 30 houses and 20-odd farms scat- 
tered around the republic? By doing so, Troncoso retorted, the Generalis- 
simo is only upholding an establishment "that will be worthy of his country." 

Yet Troncoso's statement that Trujillo does not own outright any corpo- 
ration is partly true. The Benefactor's income flows from many sources and 
he cuts himself into practically everything, but probably a very small per- 
centage of his investments is in his own name, a fact that makes it very 
difficult to ascertain with irrefutable accuracy just what and how much he 
owns and controls. He lets members of his family and close cronies carry 
the business torch for him. He is fond of dummy corporations in which his 
favorites in turn appear as stockholders and hold directorships as long as 
they are in grace. At present there are a few names whose insertion in the 
board of directors of a corporation is a sure sign that the Benefactor is be- 
hind it. First of all, there is his business manager and chief accountant Tirso 
Rivera, who has an office next door to the Chief in the National Palace. 
Then there is his brother-in-law Francisco Martinez Alba, who in his turn 
has a small coterie of his own formed by his in4aws Dr. Manuel Resumil 
Aragunde, Enrique Peynado Soler and Manuel Alfaro Ricart. The rest are 
Dr. Jesus Maria Troncoso Sanchez, Virgilio Alvarez Sanchez, Manuel de 
Moya Alonzo (the closest personal crony), Charles McLaughlin, Amado 
Hernandez, Yamil Isaias, L A. Perrotta, Elias Gadala Maria, J. Mendoza, 
Esteban Piola, Jose Delio Guzman, J. M. Bonetti Burgos. This list is by no 
means static and it changes according to the political fortunes of the people 
included. There was a time when No. 1 name on it was Anselmo Paulino, 
who became president of more Trujillo corporations than any other man. 

While working on the preparation of his doctoral thesis for Columbia Uni- 
versity, Dr. Jesus de Galindez reached the conclusion that Trujillo's finan- 
cial activities have the status of an open secret in the Dominican Republic 
and furthermore "as with all open secrets, it is difficult to substantiate them 
with sources of information and figures." Under the circumstances any list 
of Trujillo's holdings is perforce incomplete. A further complication is posed 
by the fact that it is very hard to distinguish the Dictator's own massive 
personal income from the Government's income. No one can say accurately 
where Trujillo's private property begins and the public domain ends. Many 
a business venture started by Trujillo has been quietly slipped into the Ad- 
ministration's pocket and vice versa. One formula advanced sotto voce by 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 238 

Dominicans to explain the difference is: "If it loses money, it is government- 
owned; if it makes money, it's El Jeje's" 

Trujillo's romance with money started shortly after his promotion to the 
rank of General, Chief of Staff of the National Army. In cahoots with his 
mistress (currently his third wife) the General organized several schemes 
to bleed white the Army's budget, and with the proceeds the would-be 
Benefactor acquired his first farm and laid the foundation of a modest for- 
tune in cash. 

By the time he won power Trujillo, although a man of certain means, was 
far from being a millionaire. On the same day the Vasquez regime was 
overthrown, Trujillo started the almost unbelievable process of grabbing, 
grafting and peculation out of which he was to emerge as one of the richest 
men on earth. "Since 1930," writes official biographer Abelardo Nanita, "all 
his free time from the cares of government has been devoted to developing 
large estates where the products of the soil yield a rich harvest and cattle is 
improved through breeding." This passion for land is shared by the rest of 
the Trujillo family. With the passing of time, "the Big One," along with his 
closest relatives, has become the biggest real-estate owner in the country. It 
is impossible to establish exactly how much land he and his relatives own, 
but his king-sized Hacienda Fundaddn, originally a 3,000-acre farm, ex- 
tends nowadays through several provinces. This walled kingdom, guarded 
by soldiers armed with machine guns, is like foreign territory to unauthor- 
ized people. 

If there is a thing Dominican rural men really dread, it is the sight in 
their neighborhood of any one connected with TrujiUo's farming organiza- 
tion. They know that after one of those appearances their tenure on the land 
is no longer secure. Somehow there is the strange but by no means far- 
fetched notion among Dominicans that the trujillista fief has been put to- 
gether in the first place by devious means and then maintained and devel- 
oped by a rough arrogance peculiar to the reigning family. 

To give Trujillo the credit he deserves it must be emphasized that his 
management of his farms has been efficient, his earnings good. Wastelands 
have been turned into grassy pastures, a profitable stable of thoroughbreds 
has been established, the ranch help (soldiers and prisoners in the majority) 
have been housed in fairly decent dwellings and the business of the opera- 
tion has been organized with the efficiency of a large corporation. 

Once he had fulfilled his ambition of becoming a gentleman farmer, Tru- 
jillo turned his energies to other fields. Tireless and energetic, Trujillo tossed 
his hat into the industrial ring. As always he covered his low, selfish, and 
contemptible purposes of enriching himself with high sounding words about 
national interest and popular welfare. For instance, the establishment of an 
insurance monopoly was accompanied by the passage of the first piece of 
Dominican labor legislation & workers' compensation law. High tariff and 


restrictive quotas were established in order to create trujillista monopolies 
shielded by inspired manifestations of patriotism and nationalism. Soon the 
people began to learn to look with suspicion on every project announced in 
the national interest, knowing that behind each one of them lay the selfish 
predatory claw of the dictator. Soon Trujillo was the biggest business man 
in the country, then almost the only one. As Time pointed out, "While dic- 
tators in many Latin countries have fumbled their way to economic disaster, 
Trujillo has turned into a brutally efficient businessman. Name of the busi- 
ness: the Dominican Republic." 

The assertion that Trujillo's business is the Dominican Republic is not a 
simple literary figure it is an inescapable reality. It means that Rafael Tru- 
jillo, but not society, reaps the new riches. It means that although privately 
owned monopolies are specifically forbidden by the Dominican constitution, 
practically every industry and trade in the country is under the control of a 
single person. It means that while hundreds of thousands of people live in 
substandard conditions, the Benefactor, through his multiple interests, takes 
down a steady $36 million or so a year, with perhaps another $15 million 
to be divided among the group of proxies who administer the vast empire. 

The situation is self-evident in the sugar industry the backbone of the 
Dominican economy in which Trujillo owns, through a holding corpora- 
tion, twelve of the sixteen sugar mills now in operation. A newcomer in this 
field, the Generalissimo did not rise to a dominant position until the begin- 
ning of 1957, when he acquired the last six of his twelve properties. How- 
ever, he started his encroachment right after the end of World War II, when 
he decided that with the riches he had accumulated during the conflict he 
was in a good position to wage a victorious campaign against the big Wall 
Street corporations that owned the majority of the plantations. To begin 
with, he built two sugar mills of his own. One of these new mills, the Central 
Rio Haina on the Caribbean coast eight miles west of Ciudad Trujillo, was 
planned as the largest sugar factory in the world. Yet, by the time it was 
completed, a larger one was already in operation in Venezuela. 

Located in one of the richest agricultural belts of the country, alongside 
the Rio Haina, the Trujillo-owned sugar plantations have since been in- 
creasingly growing in size and number. Thousands of farmers have been 
forced to sell their lands at prices below their real value. Those who showed 
reluctance to sell properties in which they had been settled for generations, 
were forcibly dispossessed and transported to other areas. Estimates are 
that at least 10,000 men, women and children were thus transferred and 
"exiled" to isolated and not fertile enough regions of the country. 

Trujillo invested large sums of his own money in the development of his 
sugar plantations, but in the process he was helped by the resources of the 
Dominican Government. His new corporations were awarded a general tax 
exemption for a period of twenty years, most of their cane was planted on 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 240 

lands watered by a Government irrigation project and roads and other land 
improvements were also built with government funds. Government-owned 
construction equipment was largely used without charge and Army trucks 
provided most of the transportation. Mainstays of the labor force were sol- 
diers and convicts as well as cheap Haitian laborers who were kept as vir- 
tual prisoners behind barbed wire enclosures. 

The sugar industry is no short-term, hit and run proposition. In order to 
operate efficiently, it requires a large original investment coupled with a 
sizable amount of working capital. So, by the time the new Trujillo-owned 
sugar mills were ready to begin operation early in 1950, after completion 
of the long, tedious spade work required for their purposes, the Benefactor 
had already sunk in the venture $30 million. In the process he learned as 
well a few of the facts of life that at the outset had been hidden from him 
by the promoters who sold him the idea of branching out into the suppos- 
edly lucrative sugar industry. Of all major Dominican economic activities 
none is more vulnerable to the rise of spiraling prices or the blight of soften- 
ing business in foreign markets than the sugar industry. This fact, in its turn, 
aggravates a permanent and peculiar state of general uncertainty which 
prevails within the industry periods of intense hope are followed by sud- 
den fears of impending ruinous depression, in accordance with the latest 
fluctuations of an ever-inconsistent foreign market. 

"The Big One" is not a man who likes to invest his good money in enter- 
prises whose success or failure depends on matters outside his own control. 
A man who has turned the government into a vast and succulent barbecue, 
Trujillo cannot understand that kind of business in which profits are not a 
sure bet. The venture began to worry him, lest he could not recoup the 
good money he had already sunk in it. Finally he came up with an ideal 
solution to extricate himself. He unburdened himself of the heavy load of 
the sugar mills by discharging it onto the government's shoulders. For an 
outright $50 million, which he immediately received in cash and govern- 
ment securities, Trujillo sold his sugar properties to the Banco Agrlcola 
late in 1953. 

"The Big One" chose to disguise his coup behind a mantle of fake gener- 
osity and profound preoccupation in the people's welfare. The pillage of 
the national treasury was trumpeted as the beginning of a far reaching land 
reform intended to split up all the sugar estates among individual farmers, 
and bring about bountiful opportunities to the men at the bottom of the 
economic pyramid. 1 

To set an example and prove that the Generalissimo (who no longer 

1 With the help of hindsight, indeed, it is now clear that the operation was devised 
as a double-edged weapon. It was the beginning of a relentless trujlllista sniping upon 
the foreign-owned sugar properties that eventually ended in acquisition of the coveted 
plantations. The squeeze play, however, was not immediately successful because the 
ILS. State Department put itself on record as being "deeply concerned.'* 


owned the properties) practices what he preaches, the first land division took 
place in Central Rio Haina and its sister property Central Catarey. The 
Generalissimo put fifty-nine of his former foremen (most of them Army 
"veterans") in possession of as many big tracts (up to 9,000 acres) of the 
lands recently acquired by the Banco Agricola, without even requiring from 
them a token down-payment. 2 

Upon completion of his propaganda maneuver (which earned him flatter- 
ing press comments), Trujillo permitted himself to relieve the bank from the 
cumbersome job of operating such a complicated business. He agreed to 
buy back on easy terms the same properties he had just sold for hard cash. 
This time, however, he did not show his face. Several dummy corporations 
were set up to take over without delay the sugar properties. Presiding over 
the whole empire is the so-called Corporation Dominicana de Centrales, a 
holding corporation whose chairman is Dr. Jesus Maria Troncoso. 

With large amounts of liquid capital at his disposal, Trujillo was in a 
position to make new inroads into the sugar industry. With calm efficiency 
and avoiding mistakes as well as unnecessary publicity, Trujillo's hands 
reached out unto the rest of the privately-owned sugar properties. In the 
short span of four years he concentrated in his hands the control of this 
industrial sector. First to capitulate to the Benefactor's "sweet approach," 
backed by the grim face of "legal" terror, were three small American 
(Porvenir, Amistad and Montellano) and one Canadian (Ozamd) corpora- 
tions. Then, on January 5, 1957, it was announced that one of the Trujillo 
corporations, the Azucarera Rio Haina C. por A., had bought for the sum 
of $35,830,000 the five Dominican subsidiaries of the West Indies Sugar 
Company. Shortly afterwards, Trujillo added to his fold the Santa Fe sugar 
mill, leaving only four properties in private hands. Of these, three are owned 
by the Dominican Vicini family and only one is owned by the once pre- 
ponderant American interests. 

Worth at present an estimated $125 million, the Trujillo group controls 
nearly two-thirds of the 993,172 short tons which the sugar industry was 
officially authorized to produce in 1957. The corporations belonging to this 
group (most of which are tax exempt) have the exclusive rights to sell in 
the Dominican domestic market, where a pound of refined sugar costs fifteen 
cents. In addition, they have been allotted the lion's share of the exports to 
the restricted American market. 

Sugar is perhaps the biggest investment Trujillo has made thus far in his 
country, but it is by no means the only large one. Three years ago he worked 
out a deal with Jacksonville shipyard tycoon George Gibbs, Jr., to set up a 

2 The land reform was a very short-lived one. Lacking capital as well as the know- 
how and technical facilities to operate independently on a profitable basis, the colonos 
(homesteaders) could not even meet their first interest payment. Shortly afterwards 
they were all back in their former posts as foremen. 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 242 

$50 million port and shipyard center at the mouth of the Rio Haina, right 
next door to the sugar mill. For some unclear reason the partnership be- 
tween Gibbs and Trujillo did not last long. By the middle of 1956 Gibbs 
was back home and his name had been dropped from the Corporation's 
name. To succeed him as head of the ambitious project, "the Chief" ap- 
pointed as President of the corporation a young Navy officer, Commodore 
Tomas Emilio Cortinas. After Gibbs's departure a publicity campaign was 
launched to stress the fact that the new shipyard, hailed as one of the big- 
gest in Latin America, was a single-handed effort of Dominican capital. 

"Puerto Haina is the biggest enterprise Trujillo has yet undertaken to in- 
crease the Dominican Republic's national income which is sometimes hard 
to distinguish from his own massive personal income," wrote Time in the 
days of the Trujillo-Gibbs partnership, announced as a joint venture in 
which the American would put up 45% of the capital, whereas 55% would 
be invested by Trujillo and selected pals. 

The erection of a bigger shipyard in neighboring Venezuela, along with 
the departure of Gibbs and the all-pervading Dominican official corruption 
destroyed the high hopes placed on this project. Last year Cortinas was 
quietly thrown into jail; sick and tired of the big enterprise, "the Chief" 
"sold" it to the Banco Agricola. Although some work is done and a giant 
floating drydock is in operation, the outlook is not bright for this costly 
project. But, if anyone is going to lose, it is not Trujillo. He has already got 
back his original investment. 

Every time that new avenues of profit are open in the economic field, 
Trujillo and his relatives are the first, and usually the only ones, to take ad- 
vantage of the situation. Under Rafael Trujillo's leadership, the Trujillo em- 
pire grows bigger and more prosperous. Trujillo now employs more than 
60,000 workers in his many private factories; he is turning out glassware, 
edible oils, alcoholic beverages, textiles, drugs, guns almost everything but 
heavy industrial machinery. 

One of the first monopolies Trujillo undertook to exploit was the salt 
industry. He discovered that the methods employed by the owners of the 
salt pits along the Dominican coasts were unsanitary. Moreover, the salt 
deposits were located in the maritime zone which is property of the State 
according to Dominican laws. Doubtless the national interest called for a 
prompt expropriation of all the trespassing, squalid salt-producing busi- 
ness in the country. Thereupon this was quickly done and the Salinera Na- 
tional, a company wholly owned by the Benefactor, was given the exclusive 
rights to produce and sen hygienic salt in the country. In its fifteen years of 
existence the salt monopoly reaped profits for Trujillo figured between 
$700,000 and $1,000,000 a year, whereas Dominicans who had tradition- 
ally paid, without contracting any disease, one cent for a pound of unsani- 
tary salt, were forced to pay four times that much for the healthy product. 


Business and politics are closely linked in Trujillo's case. Always very 
sensitive to the fluctuation of the political weathervane, the Benefactor saw 
signs of impending trouble in the democratic winds then blowing along and 
across the Hemisphere. In addition, he was having opposition troubles of 
his own inside the country for the first time since the early thirties. He 
decided it would be wise to make some extra cash fast, so on January 1, 
1946, it was unexpectedly announced that the Generalissimo had "sold" to 
the Banco Agricola the productive salt business for an undisclosed sum. 

"The Chiefs" choice proved to be a shrewd one. He cleared a large profit 
and the properties were there to be bought back at any time he should 
choose. To do this he waited another decade. After taking over the salt con- 
cession, the Bank invested several million dollars in new equipment to ex- 
ploit the heretofore untouched Barahona's Salt Mountain, a ten-mile block 
of solid, almost pure salt with an estimated weight of 500 million tons, which 
makes it one of the largest salt deposits in the world. 

Late in 1955 the Bank turned over to a new corporation also owned by 
the Benefactor the salt mines and its costly installations. Details of the deal 
are not available, but the Benefactor is back selling Dominicans the salt 
they consume and also exporting some 600,000 tons a year. Announcements 
were made recently to the effect that in the years to come the Salt Moun- 
tain may become the basis of a major industrial development. 

Cigarettes are another Trujillo exclusive and so are the matches which light 
them. The Compama Anonima Tabacalera, the only cigarette factory in the 
country and the largest cigar manufacturer, had been in existence long be- 
fore Trujillo's climb to power. Founded by a cunning Italian businessman, 
Anselmo Copello, the Tabacalera soon edged out competitors, establishing 
the basis of one of the most remunerative trusts. 

When the Benefactor began studying investment possibilities Tabacalera 
had to catch his eye. However, unlike the case of salt, the Benefactor could 
not find this time exalted reasons to justify a "legal" confiscatory action. 
Strong-arm methods against the owners were also out of question, since there 
were too many of them and, besides, quite a few were foreigners. Somehow, 
Trujillo found a shareholder willing to sell his stock and he established a 
bridgehead inside the corporation. Little by little he expanded his holdings 
until the moment came when he and Copello held the controlling interest. 

After Copello's death, which occurred late in 1944 while serving as 
trujillista Ambassador to the United States, Trujillo assumed complete con- 
trol of the property, paying the Copello heirs a fraction of what their inter- 
est was worth. Yet, there were a few minor stockholders left and their profits 
were deemed excessive by the Benefactor. Thus, to curb such scandalous 
profiteering "the Big One" set up a new corporation, Comisiones en General, 
whose shareholders were the Benefactor and a few proxies. Comisiones con- 
tracted immediately for the distribution and selling of the Tabacalera pro- 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 244 

duotion on an exclusive basis and at a very low price. There is no limitation 
to Comisiones' right to fix the retail price of cigarettes. 

For years a high tariff had kept American cigarettes out of the Domin- 
ican market, since very few people could afford to pay the price of 80 cents 
for a package. Throughout the years, however, a black market of American 
cigarettes was developed in complicity sometimes with high customs officers 
and other officials of the Trujillo regime. For years the Dominican authori- 
ties tried unsuccessfully to stave off the spreading of the black market to no 
avail. Late in 1955, the Benefactor reached the conclusion that if he could 
not destroy the black market he might better take it over himself. But, since 
he does not indulge in illegal activities he entrusted his advisers with the task 
of finding a way to wrest the trade from the "speculators" by proper means. 
Negotiations were first undertaken with American manufacturers and a 
series of individual deals were arrived at, whereby Comisiones en General 
was made the sole distributor of the best known brands of American ciga- 
rettes in the Dominican Republic. Then, to obviate the obstacle posed by 
the high prices of the imported cigarettes, a tax exemption was granted to 
all cigarettes legally imported by Comisiones. The death knell at last sounded 
for the long existing cigarette black market and another source of income 
for many Dominicans was cut off. 

Fabrica National de Fdsjoros manufactures all the matches sold in the 
Dominican Republic. This corporation is, however, one of the two monopo- 
lies Trujillo does not own outright. "The Chiefs" encroachments in this field 
were contained only because the controlling interest in this firm is held by 
the Swedish Cartel. Faced with the impossibility of breaking the Cartel's firm 
hold and unable to start a competing business, "the Big One" contented 
himself with squeezing Dominican stockholders out of part of their shares 
and making himself a minor but nevertheless highly influential partner. 

The other monopoly in which the Benefactor is but a modest stockholder 
(20 per cent) is the Cervecena Nacional Dominicana, the only brewery at 
present operating in the Republic. This is another of the pre-Trujillo solid 
business ventures, founded by American capitalists in partnership with some 
enterprising Dominicans. When his efforts to buy the Cerveceria failed, Tru- 
jillo bullied his way into the corporation by unf air competition (setting up 
of another brewery) and gangster-like methods of intimidation. 

In practical terms Trujillo's other holdings may be roughly divided into 
two main groups. First, the "traditional" businesses, that is to say, the first 
ones upon which Trujillo put his hands, and next, the most recent ones. 

The oldest in the first group is the Fabrica Domirdcana de Calzado 
(Fa-Doc), currently managed by Trujillo's brother-in-law, Luis Ruiz Mon- 
teagudo. This factory supplies all the footgear for the Armed Forces and 
other government institutions. The manufacture of shoes in a country where 
half its citizens go barefooted, is not the kind of business Trujillo Ekes, 


A more promising field is that covered by the lumber as well as cabinet 
and furniture factories. At present Trujillo owns the largest sawmills and all 
the existing drying facilities. Lumber exports are controlled and no one is 
allowed to get an export license without first paying a tribute to the compa- 
nies owned by the Benefactor. Through the Industrial Caobera, which he 
owns in partnership with one of his former military commanders, Trujillo 
controls the furniture manufacturing business in the country. This corpora- 
tion holds a virtual monopoly over the production of mahogany, and the 
other furniture factories must buy their stocks there. 

As one of the largest cattle growers of the country, Trujillo has been 
interested in the meat industry right from the beginning, In the early 
forties, with the help of a loan from the U.S. Export and Import Bank, 
he built a modern slaughter house and meat packing installation in Ciudad 
Trujillo. Though the slaughter house is Government-owned, it has been 
operated by Trujillo under a long-term lease. The Matadero Industrial 
and Planta de Refrigeration not only supplies all the meat and by-products 
that is consumed by Ciudad Trujillo, but it is also one of the largest manu- 
facturers of soap and lard in the country. 

A wide group of the new Trujillo-owned corporations operate in the 
city of San Cristobal, the Benefactor's home town, which he seeks to 
transform into a big industrial center. Located in San Cristobal are the 
Armeria E.N., the $5 million arms manufacturing center founded with 
Trujillo's money and now operated by the Government. There we find 
also the Fabrica Nacional de Vidrios, the tax-exempt glassware monopoly, 
that manufactures all the bottles for the local market as well as other 
articles, and the Licorera Altagracia, the cognac factory jointly owned by 
Trujillo and a few members of his Cabinet. 

Modas Miss America, a garment industry with its main center in San 
Cristobal, is owned by American interests in partnership with brother 
Arismendy Trujillo. Operated by another member of the Family there is 
a hat factory in San Cristobal, although this could hardly be called a 
medium sized business. 

The Sociedad Industrial Dominicana is the sole producer of peanut oil 
in the country and perhaps one of its most lucrative ventures. Due to the 
fact that the production of animal fats is limited and the import of edible 
grease is almost stopped by a cumbersome system of quotas, licenses and 
high tariffs, the only cooking grease easily obtainable in the country is 
peanut oil. This fantastic business operation, which turns out a million 
gallons of oil annually, is under the control of "president" Hector B. Tru- 
jillo, who administers it in partnership with an old crony, Jos6 M. Bonetti 

The Industrial Dominicana also produces more than 6,000 tons of 
animal feed yearly from the peanut residue. Since the Trujillo-owned cat- 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 246 

tie industry is growing steadily, indications are that the cattle-feed indus- 
try will expand considerably in the future. 

Since he began his business career, Trujillo has found in transporta- 
tion an inspiration for many of his greatest schemes. His particular interest 
in maritime developments received an early boost with the founding of 
Naviera Dominicana a shipping company that, however, never went be- 
yond its modest beginnings. The idea of becoming a shipping tycoon 
seemingly revived in Trujillo's mind during the early days of World War 
II. With money supplied by the Export and Import Bank the Dominican 
government built in 1942 a group of small sailing boats with the avowed 
purpose of relieving, by transportation of foodstuffs, the plight of Puerto 
Rico and other small islands of the Caribbean, suffering hardship from 
the German submarine blockade and scarcity of shipping facilities. 

Trujillo realized the possibilities of making a fat profit and bought the 
ships on terms from the government at a nominal price. Thus, he han- 
dled all the Dominican wartime export of foodstuffs to the Caribbean 
islands, making in the process a fabulous amount of money without risk- 
ing a penny. Upon termination of hostilities he turned back to the Gov- 
ernment, in payment of his debt, the now useless schooners. 

The Benefactor then proceeded to invest $3 million of his own in a new 
shipping corporation, the Flota Mercante Dominicana, started as an all- 
out effort to capture business from the U.S. lines that traditionally have 
handled the largest share of Caribbean trade. This operation was bound 
to be unsuccessful. First, the ships bought by unscrupulous agents turned 
out to be of a type inadequate for the service for which they were intended. 
Second, the vessels were most of the time on repair and therefore unable 
to give regular service. The facts that the Flota operating costs were only 
a fraction of those of their competitors (its crews were Government-paid 
members of the Dominican Navy) and that Dominican exporters and im- 
porters had been told to give their trade, when operating, to the Flota, 
were not enough to offset the disadvantages. Caught in a vice whose jaws 
were inefficiency and corruption, Trujillo solved the problem in a ruth- 
less way. He sent to jail all people involved in the mess and recouped his 
investment by the always effective expedient of dropping the hot potato 
into someone else's hands. He first mortgaged the corporation to the Banco 
de Reservas for $3 million, then gave it to the bank to pay the debt. 

At the same time Trujillo showed a marked interest in aviation. When 
an opportunity presented itself at the war's end, he set up the Compaftia 
Dominicana de Aviacidn as an affiliate of Pan American World Airways, 
For years CDA lived precariously, relying practically on its domestic serv- 
ices and on a few non-scheduled flights to Miami and San Juan, Puerto 
Rico. Yet, recently plans were announced to move the corporation's head- 


quarters to a new and bigger place and it was said that studies are under 
way on the possibilities of new regular routes. 

President of CDA is one of Trujillo's close associates and his long- 
time registered agent with the U.S. Department of Justice, Colonel Charles 
Alston McLaughlin, a U.S. Marines noncommissioned officer during the 
occupation of the country. One of the leading foreign residents for years, 
before becoming a Dominican citizen, McLaughlin, in addition to his 
duties as President of the CDA, acts as a purchasing agent for the Do- 
minican Government in the United States. According to the reports of the 
U.S. Attorney General, the amounts received by McLaughlin to act on 
behalf of the Dominican Government during the period 1950-54 were 
figured at $910,343. Both during 1955 and 1956 he was reported as re- 
ceiving $7,200 each year. The Attorney General's report does not make 
clear, however, how much of this money went to McLaughlin himself. 

Dominican progress is well advertised by the country's varied public 
works programs. In port construction the Government, for instance, has 
spent $40 million since 1930, All the jobs in this field have been awarded 
to construction companies in which the Benefactor has a financial interest, 
chiefly the firm of Felix Benitez Rexach. 

In 1946 TrujUlo promised the low-income classes to build 25,000 new 
homes for them. Ten years later only 2,500 had been completed, but in 
order to speed up construction, the Generalissimo put, in 1955, the sum 
of $2 million into a house construction firm, the Compama de Construe- 
clones Ozamas C. por A,, whose President is Ambassador Manuel de 
Moya Alonzo. 

To complete its numerous projects, which includes a new suburb of 
the capital city, the Ozama has been granted a very liberal credit of sev- 
eral million dollars by the Banco de Reservas. To expedite further disposal 
of the houses as well as to create popular interest in the housing develop- 
ment, Congress passed a law making legal the establishment of private lot- 
teries with houses as prizes. Needless to say that the first and only 
concession under the new law was granted to Ozama. 

Last but not least in the long, tedious list of the Family holdings comes 
the large group of enterprises (with a combined capital exceeding $20 
million), administered by the Generalissimo's brother-in-law Francisco 
Martinez Alba. This group is one of the most powerful industrial com- 
bines; its forte is the representation of American manufacturers. It is no 
exaggeration to say that American businessmen who go to the Dominican 
Republic soon find out that their firms are represented one way or another 
by Martinez Alba, 

In the United States, General Motors, Chrysler Corp. and Packard 
fiercely compete with each other; but not in the Dominican Republic. The 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 248 

same happens with Goodyear, Firestone, and many other firms. Down 
there they are all members of one happy family. Chrysler is represented 
by Caribbean Motors Co. (which also represents General Electric and 
scores of large American corporations), whose President is Martinez 
Alba himself. General Motors has as its representatives Atlas Commercial 
Co., another Martinez corporation whose highest executive is Enrique 
Peynado, married to a sister of Mrs. Martinez. President of Dominican 
Motors Co., representatives of Packard, is another brother-in-law, Manuel 
Alfaro Ricart. Caribbean represents Goodyear and Atlas Firestone. 

Dominican Motors is the smallest of the Dominican big three. A list of 
the lines it handles will give a fair idea of the size and importance of the 
components of this group. They are: Allis-Chalmers Mfg. Company 
(tractors, graders, industrial equipment, cement factories, mills, tur- 
bines); General Motors Corporation Detroit Division (industrial and 
maritime Diesel engines, power plants, spare parts); Ingersoll-Rand Com- 
pany (pneumatic equipment and industrial compressors, water pumps, 
Diesel generators); the White Motors Company (trucks); Ford Motor 
Co., Ltd. (Dagenham), England (Zephyr and Consul cars, Fordson 
trucks) ; Studebaker-Packard Corporation (Packard cars) ; Euclid Division, 
General Motors Co. (scrapers, industrial trucks for mines); Bethlehem 
Steel Export Corp. (steel, zinc, tin, manufactured steel); Minneapolis- 
Moline International (tractors and farm equipment); Harnischfeger 
Corp. (electric welders); Thomson Machinery Co. Inc. (farm equip- 
ment); General Refractories Co. (bricks); South Bend Lathe Works 
(winches, spindles); Link-Belt Speeder Corporation (steam shovels); Kel- 
vinator Corporation (refrigerators, both domestic and industrial); Zenith 
Radio Corp. (radios, television sets); Amrocta, Inc., (television sets, 
drilling equipment) ; Engineering Equipment Co. (winches, mixers, cement 
mixers); Smith Kirkpatrick-Gorman Rupp (pumps, centrifugates); Uni- 
versal Road Machinery Co. (conveyors, elevators). 

These products are duplicated in each one of the remaining corpora- 
tions. There is no question that almost every buyer of American automo- 
biles, manufactured articles or industrial equipment is a contributor to 
the Family pool. 

Far from devoting his time to the care of the aforementioned interests, 
Martinez Alba presides over the operation of a number of other corpora- 
tions, including the $7 million cement monopoly, Fabrica Dominicana de 
Cemento, which supplies aU the products required to maintain the con- 
struction boom in the country. And to take further advantage of the 
boom, three construction outfits have been set up under the presidency of 
Martinez Alba: Mezcla Lista, Concretera Dominicana and Equipo de 
Construction. These corporations have had a hand in almost every public 
works job done in the country during the last five years. They can, if 


they wish, outbid competitors, because they are tax exempt and buy 
cement cheaper than any other firm, but no one bothers to follow that 

The commercial and industrial activities of the ubiquitous Martinez do 
not end there. He is also president, as a proxy of his sister Mrs. Rafael L. 
Trujillo, of the hardware near-monopoly Ferreteria Read C. por A. Also 
his worries are: Planta de Recauchado C. por A., the largest tire re- 
builders in the country; Fabrica de Baterias Dominicanas, the only battery 
works in the island; Caribbean Medical Supply, wholesale dealers in 
medical and surgical equipment and Industrias de Asbesto-Cemento, the 
only factory for the manufacture of asbestos materials. 

One of Martinez' monopolies that has gained some international name 
lately is the Laboratorio Quimico Dominicana (Dominican Chemical 
Laboratory), producers of all kinds of drugs and miracle cures from 
quinine to Pega Palo. The latter is a concoction extracted from a wild 
vine of the Dominican jungle, which is prominently advertised on posters 
placed in the lobbies of the best hotels of Ciudad Trujillo, as well as by 
the press and radio, as the miracle ("better than Spanish-fly") that gives 
old men young ideas. Exploiting the populace's century-old belief in the 
powers of the vine the Laboratorio prepared a mixture of the vine and 
rum and began to sell it in bottles whose labels have an almost porno- 
graphic appeal. To introduce this "strict monopoly of the Dominicans" to 
the American public a promotion campaign of vast proportions was con- 
ducted in the United States, with the help of magazines in the Confidential 
league. Hailed by Confidential as ". . . the Vine that makes you Virile!" 
Pega Palo was asserted to be the secret of Porfirio Rubirosa's "boudoir tri- 
umphs." A sample paragraph: "They (Dominicans) know that Rubi's suc- 
cess as the Babe Ruth of the bedrooms can be credited to a seemingly 
useless vine that grows wild in the forests and jungles of the Republic. 
They've been using the same stuff themselves." 

Then, as Time recounted, "a fast-moving Texas insurance man heard 
about the vine last fall (1956), flew to Ciudad Trujillo." He signed a 
contract with the Laboratorio at a ceremony attended by Martinez Alba 
himself and by the top health official of the country, Dr. Jos6 Soba, who 
happens to be, in addition to Minister of Health, president of the Pega 
Palo manufacturing corporation. 

Bridges was given the exclusive right to buy Pega Palo in a rum base 
for $77 a gallon, provided that he advertise it in the United States as an 
"advance" achieved in the "luminous era of Trujillo, renowned father of 
the New Fatherland." On June 6 the newspaper El Caribe printed a 
full-page advertisement showing photographs of one of the shipments by 
air of the product in five-gallon drums. Trouble was looming ahead. 
Bridges did not get a Food and Drug Administration clearance, but started 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 250 

selling the stuff only to doctors. Other importers who were able to get 
the bulk vine into the U.S. were doing a brisk business at $15 a stem. 
Then the FDA cracked down and seized $1,500,000 worth of shipments. 
Said Time: "Says the U.S. Government after extensive tests: the weed is 
worthless except to its promoters." Added the Miami Herald: "Privately, 
though, many Dominicans admit that stories of aged men becoming fathers 
are hearsay." 

Insurance was one of Trujillo's first business loves, but it is Martinez 
Alba who handles it for him. Since the early thirties they have owned 
Campania de Seguros San Rafael, which for years held a monopoly in the 
field of workers' accident insurance. When the Government set up its own 
system of social security San Rafael graciously acceded to selling to the 
government its profitable accident insurance line for a sizable amount of 
money. The company kept on doing business in the field of commercial 
insurance, in which it has a near monopoly. Only in the life insurance 
line does it face any real competition from long-established British and 
Canadian firms. 

No monopoly is small business, least of all a monopoly dealing with a 
necessity like milk. In the Dominican Republic the Industrial Lechera is 
the milk-distributing organization through which all milk in Ciudad Tru- 
jillo and Santiago must be sold. Since this monopoly was established 
about twelve years ago the price of milk has been steadily going up from 
six cents a bottle to the 17 cents it now costs. By law all dairy farms 
must sell their milk already pasteurized. Since the Lechera is the only one 
with the equipment required by the health authorities, theoretically not a 
drop of milk can be sold without having passed through its plants. How- 
ever, sometimes the Lechera allows dairymen to dispense with the use 
of its pasteurizing facilities in exchange for a tribute of two cents on each 
bottle of mttk directly sold to the consumer. Heads of this Trujillo-owned 
monopoly have been a succession of favorites and high officials, begin- 
ning with Anselmo Paulino. At present the chairman of the corporation 
is Ambassador Manuel de Moya and its general manager is de Moya's 
brother Miguel. 

Lieutenant General Rafael L. Trujillo, Jr., rejected the Vice Presidential 
nomination because it might interfere with his military career. But he 
does not see any conflict between business activities and his Air Force 
duties. He now owns the second largest radio broadcasting chain (the 
biggest is owned by uncle Arismendy) and the paint manufacturing mo- 
nopoly Pinturas Dominicanas. Following in his father's footsteps, Tru- 
jillo, Jr., does not show his face. The radio corporation is administered 
by a host of his cronies and the paint factory by his long-time associate 
and preceptor, J. Antonio Perrotta. For a time this corporation looked as 
if it might be one of the few trujilUsta business failures, but the U.S. 


Department of State obligingly agreed to allow the Dominican Government 
to raise the customs tariffs on imported paint, which it could not do without 
such an agreement in accordance with international agreements. In July 
1956 the new tariffs went into effect and since then the sailing has been 
good for the Pidoca paints. Perhaps the Dominican paint market is not big 
enough to warrant a complaint by American paint manufacturers; never- 
theless, in helping the consolidation of an ailing monopoly, the State De- 
partment set a dangerous precedent. 

In addition to all this, the Benefactor has invaided recently the field of 
textiles. In partnership with a businessman from El Salvador, Elias Gadala 
Maria, "the Big One" has set up a group of corporations to manufacture 
cotton textiles as well as sisal bags and ropes. As a result big cotton 
plantations are being developed in several parts of the country. To force 
farmers to produce the raw material in the quantities needed by the new 
industrial empire, the Department of Agriculture has declared the culti- 
vation of cotton a matter of "national interest" and has set aside large 
portions of land where cotton must be grown to the exclusion of every- 
thing else. Peasants who disobey these directives are heavily fined and 
their properties confiscated and put in the hands of more pliant people. 

Reasons of space forbid a thorough analysis of other trujillista trusts 
such as the $3 million Chocolatera Industrial which operates one of the 
biggest chocolate plants in the Hemisphere; the Marmolera Nacional in 
charge of exploiting the marble quarries, and the several construction out- 
fits that on a permanent or provisional basis do business for Trujillo and 
his relatives. Land development in Ciudad Trujillo is a new field being 
opened with Government assistance* A $6 million project was set under 
way in November 1957 in the northwest sector of Ciudad Trujillo. 

Even though the known mineral resources of the country are nothing 
to keep a mining tycoon awake, mine concessions are of permanent inter- 
est to Trujillo. One of his companies, Minera Hatillo, controls the iron 
ore deposits as well as practically all the mining rights of the country, 
with the exception of bauxite. Recently the Benefactor went into partner-* 
ship with a group of American and Canadian capitalists for the explora- 
tion and eventual exploitation of the oil, nickel, iron, uranium and other 
deposits under his jurisdiction. 

Gold has been produced in substantial quantities and the mine of 
Pueblo Viejo, one of TrujUlo's concessions, still promises a good reward 
if rationally exploited. Present production, however, is only about $250,- 
000 annually, but Government geologists believe it could be expanded 
considerably. Most gold in the country comes from the river beds where 
it is washed by poor farmers and women, who are forced to sell their 
entire output to Trujillo's agents at prices arbitrarily set by the latter. 

AH this is merely a rough estimate of Trujillo's holdings, It does not 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean , 252 

comprise what the Benefactor has invested in foreign lands, of which there 
is no record available nor possibility of making an accurate assessment. 
Time said on August 7, 1950, that "Trujillo's foreign holdings, according 
to impartial sources total about $100 million half in Puerto Rico, half 
in the U.S." 


ambition and audacity, are plain in the long list of commercial, farming 
and industrial enterprises that, either in his own name or in the names 
of close relatives and henchmen, constitutes his expanding empire. 

Trujillismo is something that goes beyond the mere grasping by a ruling 
clique of all available opportunities to appropriate a great fortune out of 
the mostly untapped natural resources of the country. These things, one 
way or another, have been in greater or lesser degree commonplace when- 
ever an audacious, unscrupulous group of freebooters, be it a political 
party or a family, has secured hold of the machinery of government. 

What makes the Dominican situation particularly abhorrent is the sheer 
corruption and hypocrisy that pervades the actions of Trujillo and the small 
group of men who carry out his ill-fated policies. They think of themselves 
as a natural elite, with the elite's prerogative of fixing standards and im- 
posing its own brand of morality upon the society over which they rule. 
They think of government as a tidy piece of machinery, performing with 
the efficiency of a modern leviathan all the functions needed for the satis- 
faction of their appetites and invading every citizen's life with legislation 
in behalf of their favored grabs. 

Trujillo has exacted a high price for his services. Yet, more than the 
amount of wealth he has taken out of the country, a thing which will per- 
haps prove to be less injurious than it is generally thought (since many of 
the productive enterprises the Generalissimo has created will be there long 
after he is gone), what is really disturbing is the utter degradation evident 
in all walks of life. With "Operation Big Swindle" in full swing for the 
last 27 years, government has been turned into a permanent exercise in 
thievery, embezzlement, bribery, blackmail and all the known unlawful 
devices evolved by contemporary lords of the underworld. Trujillo is in a 
position to make regular levies on businesses ranging from sugar mill 
brothels to foreign construction firms, and to arrange deals with a wide 
variety of foreign and domestic promoters. For residents of the country 
going along with "the Chief" means rich franchises and contracts, posi- 
tions of prestige and power (though never permanent), and, above all, 
security from the hostility of Rafael Trujillo. 


Under the toxic morality of the Benefactor, Dominican business and 
political life has taken on the virtues of the bawdy house. Unhampered by 
any checks or legal restraints, Trujillo brazenly misuses the country's 
wealth. So completely does he think of high office as an opportunity to 
be exploited that he has billeted an estimated 150 relatives on the country. 

This pattern of freebooting was cut out by the Benefactor early. While 
stffl only chief of the Army, Trujillo began building up an organization 
which included several score of strong-arm men and moved into the 
protection rackets, enforcing underworld laws among gambling and prosti- 
tution houses. One of his specialities was the illegal introduction of Haitian 
workers, who were "sold" to the sugar companies at $10 a head. 

As easy money rolled into the Family kit, "the Big One" began hand- 
ing out huge quantities of money to buy outside symapthy and inside loy- 
alty for his regime. He soon became one of the last genuine free spenders. 
Under the deluge of Trujillo's money ethics have shown, both within and 
without the country, a remarkable flexibility. When critics become bother- 
some, as happened after the disappearance of Jesus de Galindez, "the 
Chief" easily obtains eminent businessmen, clergymen and U.S. Congress- 
men willing to issue statements praising him as an outstanding statesman 
of the free world. 

The plundering has become so bold and systematic that it amounts to a 
regular levy of millions of dollars a year. For instance, to keep the wolf 
from his door, the Benefactor has established a rake-off of 10 per cent 
on every public-works contract awarded by the Government. This glaring 
fact came unexpectedly to the knowledge of the United States Senate in 
the course of a routine tax investigation during July 1957. The Senate 
Finance Committee then learned that the Lock Joint Pipe Co., a New 
Jersey construction firm, had charged off as a non-taxable business expense 
a bribe of $1.8 million, paid to get a sewer and water construction job in 
the Dominican Republic. Reportedly eighty per cent of that sum went to 
Rafael Trujillo himself. Questioned by members of the committee in secret 
session, the Internal Revenue Commissioner Russell C. Harrington said, 
according to press reports, that the State Department had applied pressure 
upon his office to allow the construction firm to deduct the bribe from 
its income tax. He was quoted as saying that his office took action on 
the matter only after the State Department had put itself on record with a 
plea that it was a proper deduction. The Des Moines Register, in a copy- 
righted story written by Fletcher Knebel of its Washington Bureau, showed 
how the "tale of international under-the-table financial intrigue" was un- 
folded under questioning by a group of senators headed by John Wil- 
liams (R., Del). 

Although the senators emphasized that "the only direct evidence link- 
ing Trujillo to the bribe thus far was the State Department's insistence 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 254 

that Internal Revenue challenge the deduction," said the newspaper, it was 
evident that the New Jersey corporation won its Dominican building con- 
tract through the good offices of a British subject. The latter was identi- 
fied later as being Mr. Albert Rogers, a brother-in-law of the current Do- 
minican Ambassador to Washington, Manuel de Moya Alonzo. 

Prodded by the senators, whose temper was described by Newsweek 
magazine as "close to boiling mad/' Harrington testified that the Lock 
Joint Pipe Company had been told by the British subject that they "could 
swing the deal" by padding the bill $1.8 million to be divided between 
him and the Benefactor. Still more disturbing was the assertion, attributed 
to Harrington, that in Trujilloland such bribes were "an ordinary and 
necessary business expense." 

This revelation at a moment in which Trujillo was under fire in the 
United States for other reasons, lifted a good many eyebrows but never- 
theless failed to gain the national attention it deserved. Trujillo kept right 
on with the main business of collecting not only from Lock Joint Pipe 
Co. but from every corporation or man who did any kind of business with 
the Administration. To get an idea of how much Trujillo has made just 
in his cuts from public works contracts, it must be born in mind that, ac- 
cording to the Benefactor himself, since 1930 the Administration has 
spent $360 million in public works, which means a $36 million kickback 
for Trujillo on this item alone. Then comes another ten per cent on 
everything the Government sells or buys. The custom of taking a bribe is 
such an ingrained habit by now that there have been cases in which "the 
Big One" has loaned money to friends supposedly without interest only to 
request later a ten per cent cut on anything that is bought with the loaned 
sum. Even his own construction firms must pay to the Benefactor the ten 
per cent kickback at the moment they are awarded a contract. 

No wonder public works receive a high priority in the Dominican Re- 
public. There are cases in which Trujillo's profits in a public work go be- 
yond the ten per cent kickback. In a hospital, for instance, even if he 
does not handle its building through one of his construction outfits, Tru- 
jillo always make a handsome profit. Upon signing the contract with the 
builders he gets the customary percentage. Then his monopoly sells the 
cement and Ferreteria Read sells the steel. Since contractors are forbidden 
by one of the anti-monopoly Dominican laws to operate the concrete 
mixing equipment, they have to buy the mix from Mezda Lista. If trucks* 
steam rollers or tractors are needed there is a good chance that these are 
bought from Caribbean Motors Co. Then when the hospital is finished it 
is equipped and furnished by Caribbean Medical Supply. Once it is under 
operation the medicines, drugs and other supplies are sold by the TrujiUo 

From the outset another favorite method of the Trujillo family to 


secure hard cash has been that of buying cheap from the Government and 
then reselling at fantastic prices. There are cases in which the same prop- 
erty has gone back and forth from the Government to the Trujillos several 
times. There is a farm named Altagracia Julia which no one ever knows 
for certain who owns at a given time. 

Legally or illegally (mostly the latter), all agricultural and industrial 
production is either directly controlled by Trujillo or his family, or has 
to pay tribute to them. The existing duplicity of legal taxation and private 
assessment of business accounts for the high cost of living. Businesses like 
bakeries, for example, which Trujillo has not deigned to take over di- 
rectly, must pay protection to remain open. For each sack of flour which 
is used, bakeries pay Trujillo a flat amount. 

Gambling has been legalized in the big tourist hotels and in the Trujillo- 
owned night clubs. The concessions of the lucrative casinos are awarded 
to those who pay the best prices not to the Government but to the Bene- 
factor. For years the Generalissimo took the giant's share from the Na- 
tional Lottery proceeds. For almost 23 years the lottery was leased to 
Ramon Savinon Lluberes, the largest urban real estate owner in the 
country and TrujiHo's brother-in-law. Then, without any explanation, the 
lottery was put in the hands of the Government. During the time Savinon 
administered the concession no figures were ever made public on lottery 
profits. An idea, however, of the magnitude of this business is afforded 
by the fact that in the national budget for 1956 the revenues from the 
lottery alone were figured at $6 million for that year. Protection of illegal 
gambling (rampant in the sugar properties and other industrial centers) is 
shared by Trujillo with his military commanders. In the capital city, 
however, anything connected with the number rackets as well as protec- 
tion to houses of ill repute and other centers of vice falls within the juris- 
diction of brother Romeo "Pipi" Trujillo. 

Sometimes "protection" is given by the Trujillos to people who do not 
need it. There is the racket of the law suits intended to despoil people of 
their property in accordance, of course, with due process of law. Many 
times the Trujillos content themselves with intervening in a law suit al- 
ready started on the side of one of the parties, in exchange for a fee. 
Occasionally, however, they start their own law suits. So widespread is 
this practice that Dominicans call brother Virgilio Trujillo u Mr. Supreme 

Trujillo's most fabulous opportunity to make millions came with World 
War II. The entry of the country in the conflict made necessary the im- 
position of a series of controls over exports and imports. Supposedly de- 
vised to aid in a more effective distribution of inadequate supplies, such 
regulations were promptly turned by Trujillo into a racket to line his 
own pockets. Nothing could be either exported or imported, not even a 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 256 

needle, without a license and to secure such documents people had to 
pay the Benefactor, through the official "controls," a certain amount of 
money, depending upon the size of the shipment. No receipts were given 
nor any record was ever kept of the transmissions, but without a visit to 
the control offices no goods could be moved off the docks. Before long 
Dominicans knew these offices as the Aduanitas (little customs houses). 

The system was kept in full force (except for American businessmen 
who after a diplomatic protest were relieved of the obligation to visit the 
Aduanitas) during the War. At the end of the conflict the system was dis- 
continued to be reimposed again for a few months during the Korean War. 

After all controls had been legally lifted, the Aduanitas kept on taxing 
the exports of coffee and cocoa. Finally, the system was thought to be un- 
dignified and too obviously copied from gangsters. To substitute for it, 
two export cartels were formed among coffee and cocoa exporters. The 
Generalissimo was made an honorary member of both with the right to 
reap a profit without sharing in the risks of the operations. To this day, 
however, whenever an independent cattle raiser ships his livestock to for- 
eign lands, Trujillo collects from four to five dollars per head of cattle. 

Trujillo firmly believes that insurance policies are taken out to be col- 
lected. Thus, whenever any of his factories or other business installations 
is becoming obsolete, unprofitable or in any manner more a liability than 
an asset, a mysterious fire breaks out. The modern mills of the peanut oil 
factory were built upon the charred location of the former factory. Then, 
last year, sisal stocks were perilously accumulating in the warehouses of 
the Azua plantation faster than orders came in from the foreign clients. 
One day a fire destroyed them and San Rafael paid the insurance money 
without further investigation. 

Arson is also employed as a method to get business competitors out of 
the way. Another recent fire, in which the usually efficient firemen of Ciu- 
dad Trujillo were seemingly unable to save anything, destroyed beyond 
repair the only paint factory in competition with Trujillo, Jr., Pinturas 
Dominicanas. This time the destruction was total and no better factory 
was built upon the ruins. The business had not been insured. Short of capi- 
tal (the entire business was estimated at $5,000), the owners were unable 
to raise the high premium asked by San Rafael 

The Benefactor's methods for liquidating losing ventures have been 
tried even on an international scale, sometimes successfully. At the end of 
World War II the Dominican government acquired a discarded Canadian, 
liner. Named the Nuevo Dominicano the ship was reported to be the be- 
ginning of a new national merchant marine. Its operation, however, soon 
proved uneconomical. Trouble accumulated until "the Chief" decided to 
get rid of the ship without losing, of course, the original investment. 

First he sold the Nuevo Dominicano to a Miami syndicate, one of whose 


members was the Dominican Consul General in that city. These people 
did not operate the ship long. In October, 1953, they dispatched the 
Nuevo Dominicano on ballast to Ciudad Trujillo, supposedly for repair. 
Then it was announced that she had been lost off the Cuban coasts. No 
sooner had the news of the Nuevo Dominicano wreck been received than 
the Dominican Government filed a $1.3 million claim with the insurance 
broker, through the San Rafael The case was taken over by the Govern- 
ment because, it was asserted, the alleged new owners had not complied 
with their obligation of making a down payment. The original claim was 
filed in the United States through the Florida law office of Senator George 
Smathers. The underwriters started their own investigation of the ship- 
wreck and despite all kinds of pressure brought to bear upon them by the 
Dominican Government, its lawyers and diplomatic representatives refused 
to pay. Then Trujillo hired the services of the British law firm of Hill, 
Dickison and Company, in the month of June, 1954, and a law suit was 
started against a group of underwriters headed by the firm of H. G. Chester, 
of London. The underwriters served notice they would fight to the bitter 
end and appointed as their lawyers the firm of Walston and Company. 

After some spade work, pre-trial examinations and shadow boxing, 
Trujillo's attorneys left the matter in abeyance and it is doubtful that the 
matter will ever be pressed to an open trial by the Dominican Govern- 
ment. This refusal of the underwriters to comply with the Trujillo regime's 
claims is highly significant since the insurance people are not known for 
any love for litigation. 

There is evidence that "the Big One" does not shy away from consort- 
ing, when occasion warrants it, with known figures of the international 
underworld. Although the charges that Trujillo is a regular partner of the 
great figures of America's gangland should be discarded in all probability 
as just another figment of the imagination of those writers who tend to 
associate almost everyone with Lucky Luciano and Three-Finger Brown, 
the fact is that occasionally Trujillo is not totally innocent. 

It is a well-known fact that many of the most dangerous fugitives of 
justice have found refuge in the Dominican Republic, provided they have 
enough money to meet the price set by the Benefactor or willing enough 
to put their talents at the service of the cause. Recently one of America's 
most wanted men spent a rest period under "the Chiefs" protective wings. 
He is Edward W. Curd, of Lexington, Ky., identified as Frank Costello's 
"bookmaker." He has also been accused of being a top figure in basket 
ball scandals and is under a federal indictment for income tax evasion. 

According to an Associated Press dispatch in the Miami Herald on 
June 10, 1957, since 1952 Curd's wanderings, with T-men on his tail, 
"have taken him from the U.S. to Canada, the Dominican Republic, Cuba 
and finally the Bahamas." After being exposed by the Kefauver Com- 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 258 

mittee, reported the AP, Curd left the United States and headed for 
Canada. "After three years there he was afraid the T-men were getting 
close, so he sailed on a freighter for the Dominican Republic Trujillo's 
domain in the Caribbean." 

Serge Rubinstein, the man who nearly wrecked the national economies 
of France and Japan, and who rigged scores of phony deals in the United 
States, was at the time of his mysterious assassination involved in deals 
with the Trujillo regime, through the Development Commission, for the 
chartering under Dominican laws of a bullion bank. This institution was 
going to operate in Europe, where there are hundreds of people willing to 
pay any premium provided they can convert their fortunes into solid, 
legal gold coin. 

Trujillo and Ms associates control three-quarters of the country's 
means of production and maybe a greater share of the national income. 
On the other side are the downtrodden Dominicans, who produce little, 
earn less and consume almost nothing. 


their daily good deeds in order to remain in the good graces of their 
lord and master. Usually what they did yesterday, and much less the day 
before, does not make much difference. They have to prove themselves 
anew everyday, and no matter what kind of response they get from the 
object of their fawning, they must keep on with an unabated show of loy- 
alty. Every public servant is bound forever to the Benefactor, and, how- 
ever distinguished his past or present services, he is not supposed to expect 
anything in return. 

Trujillo expects this blind loyalty from his subordinates, but he does not 
pay back in kind. It is said that "the Big One" is a man who neither for- 
gets his enemies nor forgives his friends and that he has heaped more per- 
sonal indignities on his cronies than on his foes. It is never a beautiful 
thing to see men betrayed and destroyed by those whom they serve or by 
their closest friends and associates. Yet this is an almost daily spectacle. 

As a result there is a frightful scarcity of men of character in Trujillo's 
retinue. Only "yes men," ready to bend, swing and dance to any tune, 
are capable of resisting for long the unceasing pressures brought to bear 
on his collaborators by the Dominican dictator. 

Ever since he succeeded in treacherously snatching power from a man 
who trusted him, Trujillo has been apprehensive that somewhere within 
the ranks of his own followers there is a man ready to repeat the story. 
In all the Era of Trujillo, no chum had been closer to "the Big One" than 
Secretary of State Without Portfolio Anselmo Paulino Alvarez, who from 
1947 to 1954 was the second most important man in the Dominican 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 260 

scheme of things. Neither before nor after had anyone been so powerful 
as Paulino grew to be, nor so devoted a servant of "the Chief." No one 
did so many different chores for the Benefactor from buying his daily 
bread to troubleshooting for him in foreign lands. No Dominican knew 
more secrets about Trujillo than Paulino. One day, however, with no 
warning whatsoever, Paulino was a broken man stripped of power and 
office; his wealth confiscated; sneered at by his former friends; attacked 
by the press he once controlled and arrested by the secret police he had 

If any moral can be drawn from Paulino's example, it is that not even 
devoted service saves those who by any chance catch the suspicious eye 
of "the Big One." People hold their posts as long as Trujillo allows them 
to stay in office. No place in the pyramid of command is for keeps and no 
authority except Trujillo's is more than provisional. No wonder the com- 
position of the inner circle has a very fast turnover. 

Few men have been in the administration from its inception. Those 
who helped Trujillo grab power were his first victims. They soon dis- 
covered that, contrary to their original hopes, the young soldier would not 
be a pliant tool of their own political interests. He had his own aims, and 
in furthering them he maneuvered his former associates into a position of 
utter helplessness. 

As so often happens, the partners quickly fell out over the division of 
the spoils. Estrella Urena was one of the first to go, followed by Rafael 
Vidal, and then Roberto Despradel. It may well be that some of these 
men were conspiring against Trujillo, but others were not. It seems more 
probable that they expected in return for their help something Trujillo 
has never given to anyone a small measure of recognition, gratitude and 
appreciation for services rendered. Or perhaps they were dismissed, im- 
prisoned (and some killed like Desiderio Arias) only because Trujillo 
thought them too powerful or too strong willed to have around him* 

Whatever the reasons, they were soon replaced by a group of personal 
friends of the Dictator, picked from those men who had socially promoted 
Trujillo during the bygone and unspeakable days when the shortsighted 
aristocrats were shutting their doors in the would-be Benefactor's face. 
These men, however, though they lasted longer than the old-style politi- 
cians, were eventually cast out. By 1946 there were very few of them 
still active in government and though some (as it is the case with a few 
of the 1930 political chieftains) still come and go in government posts 
they no longer have any active part in the implementation of the main 
policies of the regime. They have been replaced by trained bureaucrats 
without roots in the political, economic, social or cultural fabric of the 
nation; men devoid of personal prestige and lacking any future of their 
own. Without political significance of their own (although sometimes tech- 


nically and intellectually competent) the only role these men play is that 
of complacent, hard-working messenger boys for "the Big One." With a 
big stake in the regime, these people are the strongest supporters of the 
status quo. 

Notwithstanding the elimination from national leadership of most of 
the prominent political figures of the past, Trujillo's inner maneuvering is 
by no means over. The present Cabinet Ministers and the rest of the clique 
recognize that they owe their current positions to the always blessed "gen- 
erosity and benevolence" of the illustrious Benefactor of the Fatherland, 
Although there is not the slightest hint of independence within the Gov- 
ernment's ranks, the Generalissimo does not lower his guard lest one of 
his subordinates think that the time is approaching when his own star 
deserves to shine. 

To avoid such a possibility Trujillo follows the ancient rule of "divide 
and conquer." Knowing that no one is a kingdom by himself, that no one 
can do anything alone in the realm of political action, he does not allow 
the formation of dangerous cliques among his collaborators, either civilian 
or military. He regards all personal ties among his associates as suspicious. 
Thus, even though individual friendships within the ruling coterie are not 
formally forbidden or outwardly declared reprehensible, they are never- 
theless viewed with the utmost distrust and discouraged as much as possi- 
ble. As soon as two officials are known to be on friendly terms or if their 
families visit each other with unusual frequency, the machinery of in- 
sidious intrigue is set to work to break the link of intimacy. 

Trujillo often personally takes care of planting the seeds of discord 
whenever the chosen victims are among those in direct contact with him. 
His favorite method is to tell someone a particularly offensive and un- 
pleasant truth about his own private life or official conduct (usually gath- 
ered by the secret police) and to ascribe the source of this information to 
the closest friend the man has at the moment. Knowing the truth of what 
Trajillo has said (or highly offended if it is a lie), the intended victim 
is likely to believe without further investigation that his unfaithful, treach- 
erous friend betrayed him to the Benefactor. The reaction usually is "Did 
he say that about me? Well, now listen to this about him." After that the 
friendship is ruined for good. 

In this way political rivalries have been transferred from the public 
platform to the palace chambers, from the press to the boudoir. Intrigues 
grow for no one knows who is holding the dagger that will stab him in 
the back and individuals fight constantly among themselves to retain the 
favors of the tyrant. Hardly anyone is to be trusted and those who feel 
real friendship for one another soon learn to cover up their feelings. Under 
the stern eye of "the Big One" Dominican high officials live immersed in 
an atmosphere of intrigue, duplicity and mutual hatred. 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 262 

The anxieties to which Dominican officials are subjected are well illus- 
trated by an old custom which has fallen into disuse during the last seven 
or eight years. At the outset of the regime, and for many years afterward, 
the newspapers, under Trujillo's instructions, used to blow their sirens to 
announce the appointment of new cabinet ministers, and many were the high 
officials who learned of their sudden demotion by listening to the whistle. 
This strange custom gave rise to a series of wisecracks, one of which con- 
cerns a Foreign Minister who, in the middle of a conference with a foreign 
diplomat, heard La Nacidn's siren and inquired of a subordinate the reason 
for the racket. He was politely advised that he better start cleaning up his 
desk since his substitute was already on his way down to take over the post. 
It is said that the visiting diplomat finished his conversation with the new 
appointee. The story may be apocryphal but it lends support to the authen- 
tic account of a long-time collaborator of the Generalissimo who, questioned 
about his experiences as the holder of a cabinet office, blandly said: "It is 
just a period of anguish between two blows of a siren." 

Officials must get accustomed to all this. "Discipline is the keynote of the 
Dominican Government," wrote an American reporter in an admiring vein 
and, perhaps unwittingly, he was pointing out a great truth. The Dominican 
civil service of today is a descendant of the military barracks where Trujillo 
received his training in the science of government. That the Benefactor is a 
man of action, a hard worker, a capable organizer and a stern disciplinarian 
is made evident not only by the vast distance he has traveled in his sixty-six 
years but by the well-cultivated garden he keeps. It must never be forgot- 
ten, however, that the talents of a mule driver should not be confused with 
statesmanship. In accordance with Trujillo's unyielding standards, all public 
offices start work at 7:30 in the morning and do not close shop until 1:30 
P.M. No loafing is permitted among clerks and employees, and in order to 
make sure that his instructions are strictly carried out, "the Big One" him- 
self periodically makes unannounced visits to the several departments. His 
unexpected appearances have been the occasion for the spectacular undoing 
of many a Cabinet Minister caught off base. They earn a yearly salary of 
$36,000 which places them among the best paid civil servants in the world. 
The high level of salaries is restricted to the top echelons. Rank and file em- 
ployees live on substandard wages clerks earn from $60 to $200 a month 
and there are still people on the Government's payroll whose earnings are 
$30 a month, less the customary ten per cent for the Partido Dominicano. 
Teachers, as probably everywhere else, are among the poorest of the white 
collar workers. Yet, the custom of closing public offices at 1:30 P.M. is a 
blessing for many Government employees, because it gives them enough 
spare time to take a second job which allows them to make ends meet. 
Others take advantage of the opportunity to educate themselves, as Univer- 
sity classes are conducted only during the afternoon and night 


To give credit where credit is due, it must be admitted that there is much 
truth in the contention that the Dominican machinery of government is well- 
oiled and adjusted, and seemingly capable of a large output of routine work. 
On the other hand, it is also true that the Dominican civil service has a 
total lack of initiative and independence. Nothing is ever decided by a Gov- 
ernment department without first being referred to the National Palace. It 
is at "the heights" that even the granting of sick leave to a minor clerk is 

The harsh methods employed to keep official servants in line have been 
successful only to a certain extent. They insure loyalty and conformity, but 
they breed mediocrities trained for unreflective subservience. Even the "pres- 
ident" is a victim of the system. In spite of the fact that the office is now- 
adays in the hands of a trusted member of the family, the Generalissimo 
insists upon taking all decisions by himself. He is the one who first sees all 
the correspondence and other official documents even the private letters 
addressed to brother Hector. Documents and official decrees are only taken 
to the President for his signature. There have been cases when Trujillo has 
made up a decision on an important matter of state at an hour (or in a 
place) when Hector was not available. On these occasions the "president" 
learns of his own decisions along with the rest of Dominicans by reading 
the morning papers. 

The "president" has his offices in the west wing of the National Palace 
and a usual sight is that of His Excellency hurriedly going back and forth, 
like any employee, from his office to the suite of the Generalissimo on the 
opposite side of the building. The rest of the time H6ctor kills his boredom 
by practicing his favorite pastime of eavesdropping. He spends hours tinker- 
ing with a contraption that allows him to listen in on other people's tele- 
phone conversations. A nice hobby for $283,550 a year. 

It may be worth noting that the Benefactor still meets with his ministers 
once in a while. Cabinet meetings, however, are long, boring affairs where 
hardly a thing of importance is ever taken up. "The Big One" sits at the 
head of a big mahogany table, with the President at his right, and proceeds 
to take up minor business, presumably to trip his aides into mistakes or up- 
root minor deficiencies in the administrative procedures. Yet more than 
one minister has lost his job over an inconsequential faux pas, such as not 
knowing the name of a clerk the Benefactor had just met a few days before 
in a far-away part of the country. 

The Cabinet meetings are also God-sent occasions for Trujillo to humili- 
ate his aides with the foulest of language in front of their colleagues. 
"Good for nothings," "imbeciles" "thieves" and other stronger epithets are 
freely hurled by the Benefactor at the cornered and harassed courtiers. De- 
void of humor and without command of repartee, Trujillo has not left to 
posterity a single memorable phrase or an anecdote worth recounting. As a 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 264 

rule, following one of these barbed, brutal tongue-lashings, the battered 
ministers hurry back to their offices to wait for their substitutes. Queer as it 
may seem, the audience heartily enjoys the show. 

Upon demotion from ministerial rank, Trujillo's aides are usually sent to 
serve a term in Congress. Both the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies are 
rather like a purgatory, where the further fate of ousted collaborators de- 
pends upon their future behavior. There the purged cronies wait for the 
forthcoming moment of pardon, although they know that they will never be 
back in positions of trust, no matter how high-sounding the titles of their 
future offices. Sometimes, Congress is but the threshold of everlasting ob- 
livion and even jail and death. In line with this policy at least twenty for- 
mer Cabinet officers occupy seats in this Dominican "Siberia." 

Their humiliations are by no means over. It is possible that one day 
upon his arrival in the Capital the congressman will be notified that his pres- 
ence is no longer necessary since his "resignation" (which he signed undated 
the day he took his oath of office) has been submitted and Congress is all 
set to "elect" a substitute. This is perfectly legal in Trujilloland since Article 
16 of the Dominican constitution provides that "When vacancies occur in 
the Senate or in the Chamber of Deputies, then the body in question will 
select the replacement from a trio to be presented by the political party to 
which the person who caused the vacancy belongs." It is always the first 
of the three proposed substitutes whom Congress automatically elects. 

This practice allows the regime to pull fast publicity stunts whenever it 
deems fit. When a group of four U.S. Congressmen visited the Dominican 
Republic in April 1957, the Generalissimo impressed them with the "elec- 
tion" of one of the leaders of the colony of Jewish refugees of Sosua, Mr. 
Adolf Rosenzweig, as the deputy for a district "predominantly Roman 
Catholic." The Generalissimo also told the visiting members of the U.S. 
House of Representatives (Earl Chudoff of Pennsylvania, Isidore Dollinger 
of New York, Samuel N. Friedl of Maryland and Herbert Zelenko of New 
York, all Democrats) that his country would open its doors to 5,000 Jew- 
ish refugees from Egypt. Both things were excellent headline-catchers and 
were accepted by the guests. Upon returning to the United States, Rep- 
resentative Zelenko and other members of the group were cited as ex- 
pressing great praise of the Generalissimo. They also judged the "election" 
of Rosenzweig as proof of "the freedom of opportunity, freedom of worship 
and absence of any kind of racial or religious discrimination" In the coun- 
try. Unfortunately, the visiting Congressmen did not consider it worth-while 
to ask the brand-new deputy, whose taking of oath they witnessed, either 
how long he had campaigned or by what plurality he had been elected. Nor 
did they ask Trujillo when and how he proposed to make good his offer of 
help to the Egyptian Jews. 

By these and other tricks of unsurpassed cynicism, Trujillo has been able 


to sell the outside world a lot of tripe about the excellence of Ms regime. 
There is, for example, the oft-repeated contention that the Dominicans were 
so badly off before Trujillo that they had lost all faith in the possibility of 
an independent existence. "Most Dominicans believed/' says one of these 
acccounts, "the country would have to surrender sovereignty, become a kind 
of protectorate of the United States or League of Nations. The only alterna- 
tive seemed anarchy. Then caine Trujillo, who not only gave his people back 
their self-respect but has done away with all the country's defects. People 
are forthright citizens today, honest, hard working and intent only on what 
is good for the country according to the directives given to them by the 
Benefactor. Only the pick of the litter work for Trujillo who has done away 
with opportunism." Cynics, of which there is an abundant crop in the Do- 
minican Republic at present, say that of this propaganda only the last con- 
tention is true. After all, they say, opportunism requires at least some ability 
to stand up and take chances, and this is no longer possible in the Domini- 
can political vineyard. 

Unlike their counterparts in other Latin nations, it is officially proclaimed, 
Dominican public servants are honest and incorruptible. Grafters have been 
totally eradicated and the highest norms of administration are enforced 
throughout all levels of Government. Again cynics say that surely there is 
less graft in the country than elsewhere; there is only one grafter. But, either 
to hide this latter fact or because the real situation has gotten out of hand, 
the truth is that on this subject the regime seems to have developed a strange 
case of split-personality. While most of its propagandists beat the drums 
about administrative cleanliness for all its worth, others, including the local 
press, paint a dark picture of utter moral degradation among public servants. 

Trujillo has asserted that the only function of a free press is to print criti- 
cism "against public functionaries who do not complete their duties in an 
honest manner," and if such standards are applied to the Dominican situa- 
tion there is no alternative but to believe that here is either the freest press 
in the world or the most fraudulent government. According to the letters 
daily printed in the "Foro Publico" of El Caribe, the men around Trujillo 
are all crooked and the present Dominican regime is the most corrupt en- 
terprise in the world. Those people who are not thieves, etobezders, smug- 
glers, Mars, drunks or incompetents are either communists or homosexuals. 
Only the names of the Benefactor and those of his closest relatives are kept 
out of this systematic process of debasement incessantly carried on by the 
parrot press. The "you sinners" theme is played over and over again in let- 
ters manufactured in the presidency to soil the names of friends and foes 
alike. That this gruesome ritual goes beyond its supposed purpose of humili- 
ating high government officials is shown by the fact that recently the Bene- 
factor has been taking a very stem view of charges as reported in the "Foro." 
In November 1957, following an investigation prompted by one such letter 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 266 

to the editor, he decided upon the mass firing of the members of the corps 
of traffic cops. Then several high officers of the Army and National Police 
were accused of taking bribes and grafting on a large scale, and on top of 
that came the merciless downgrading of Major General Rafael Espaillat 
(retired), who was stripped of his rank and "resigned" as a member of Con- 
gress, in punishment for alleged misconduct. The chastisement of Espaillat 
was a particularly pointed example, since he had been a trusted personal 
aide of Trujillo for several years, the author of the preface to the official 
military biography of the Generalisssimo, and the man who initiated the army 
cult of "the Chief's" personality by naming, during the middle Twenties, the 
small lot in front of San Francisco de Macoris fortress "Trujillo Square." 

Corruption is so widespread within officialdom that it reaches out of the 
country into the Diplomatic Corps. In recent years the names of several 
Dominican diplomats have been involved in international incidents which 
involved shady deals in money, arms, jewelry and other contraband. 

Cesar Rubirosa, younger brother of international "lover boy Porfirio," was 
for years a charge d'affaires in several European countries. Somehow, while 
serving in Switzerland, Cesar began to use his diplomatic immmunity to 
carry gold and other hot merchandise across international boundaries. One 
day as he toured the Mediterranean, he got careless and the Athens police 
caught him at an airport with an illicit $60,000. As he was not accredited 
to Greece his diplomatic passport wasn't much help. Convicted and sen- 
tenced by a Greek court to eighteen months in jail and a $250,000 fine, 
he served the term but was unable to raise the money. He was forced to 
stay in the country in order to pay the fine with money earned by his own 
work, and for a few years he was a forced resident of the city of Corinth. 
The Greeks were only taking off from his yearly salary an amount equiva- 
lent to one per cent of his total debt, which was likely to make him a resi- 
dent of Greece for the rest of his days. Finally., brother Porfirio made up 
his mind to intercede with his old pal the Benefactor, who in turn did the 
same thing with the Greek authorities. As a result C6sar's debt was canceled 
and the dashing trujillista diplomat was deported to the Dominican Repub- 
lic. The story of C6sar Rubirosa was by no means over, however. Early in 
1957 he mysteriously showed up in San Juan, Puerto Rico, despite the fact 
that his known record of undiplomatic activities in Europe made him in- 
eligible for entry into American territory. For weeks he moved freely about 
town, until one day he slipped away as quietly as he had come into the 
island. Upon his return to the Dominican Republic, he was restored to the 
diplomatic service as a protocol officer, 

Sergio del Toro's grisly story is another short course in the twisted reali- 
ties of trujillista diplomacy, Del Toro, a young adventurer formerly associ- 
ated with the Dominican exiles group in the abortive revolutionary attempt 
of Cayo Confites, helped by dual nationality status (Ms late father had been 


Puerto Rican) had settled down in New York. There, it seems, he met Con- 
sul General Felix Bernardino., then engaged in a Soviet-style "come home 
campaign" among Dominican expatriates living in Manhattan. Through 
Bernardino's good offices, del Toro patched up his former differences with 
the Benefactor and as part of a group of former opponents turned collabo- 
rators he visited Ciudad Trujillo in 1952. After a much publicized tour of 
the country the group went back to New York and shortly afterwards sev- 
eral of them received appointments as errand boys for Trujillo, with the 
diplomatic status of Commercial Attaches. As a member of this chain sta- 
tioned in El Salvador, del Toro was responsible not to the foreign office but 
to Bernardino. In the month of July 1956 the Salvadorian authorities an- 
nounced that they had caught del Toro with an illegal shipment of small 
arms in his possession. 

With the police on his heels, del Toro crossed the border and went into 
Guatemala. There, despite the fact that according to a United Press dis- 
patch he was using a properly issued and stamped Dominican diplomatic 
passport, the Guatemalan police arrested del Toro and sent him back to 
El Salvador. Given the choice of staying in jail in El Salvador or being de- 
ported to Santo Domingo, del Toro decided to face the local punishment. 
"I'd rather be a prisoner in El Salvador than in the Dominican Republic.*' 

In the meantime the Dominican government disclaimed any responsibility 
for del Toro's activities. Through its charg6 d'affaires in San Salvador (the 
Ambassador was conspicuously absent throughout the whole process) the 
Dominican government accused del Toro of using a forged passport to cross 
the border into Guatemalan territory, of having falsified the charge's signa- 
ture, and of being a communist agent of the oft mentioned-never seen "Carib- 
bean Legion." How the Legion was powerful enough to infiltrate Trujillo's 
diplomatic ranks or why "the Chief' was using a man of del Toro's back- 
ground went unexplained by the Dominican foreign office. 

The stories of trujillista diplomatic indiscretions could fill a volume in 
themselves. For instance, before receiving the official agreement from the 
United States Government to act as Dominican Ambassador to Washing- 
ton, the current incumbent, Manuel de Moya, delivered, on April 5, 1957, 
a controversial speech on the "Galindez-Murphy Affair" before the San 
Francisco Commonwealth Club, which raised questions about his accept- 
ability to the American Government. 

In his Speech de Moya declared that those in the United States who blamed 
the Generalissimo for the disappearance of Galindez were either commu- 
nists or communist dupes. He further declared; *' 'Operation Galindez' and 
'Operation Murphy' . . . were beautifully timed and executed propaganda 
offensives. And both times the opposition succeeded in having non-Com- 
munist elements carry the ball." 

Then, as reported by the Washington Evening Star, de Moya "also ran 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 268 

into trouble at the gaming tables of Las Vegas, Nevada, on his way back 
East after the April 5 speaking engagement. It is reported Mr. de Moya lost 
a large amount of money at the desert resort and was told to come home by 
his government." All of this added up to a tempest in a tea pot, however, 
and Mr. de Moya is happily performing as the trujillista envoy in Washington. 

No one can tell for sure what standards Trujillo follows in choosing his 
collaborators, since his government is an heterogeneous composite of men 
of different extraction, intellectual ability, and methods of performance. The 
mark of the Generalissimo's skill is that whatever his ways of recruiting 
collaborators he has been able to rally around him men of all calibers 
who willingly or unwillingly serve his purposes loyally and that he seem- 
ingly has at hand at all moments the right person for each mission from 
the bumping off an inconvenient foe in the heart of Manhattan to the han- 
dling of a delicate matter at the U.S. State Department. 

"The Big One" has won over quite different sorts of people, who might 
normally be on different sides of democratically erected fences. Although 
in private he prefers to consort with "hoods," and among his closest cronies 
and drinking companions are a curious medley of pimps, thugs, promoters 
and shady operators both imported and domestic Trujillo can also dis- 
play decent looking people who impress foreign dignitaries with their 
charm and intellect and smooth out the more irksome matters of state* 

The Benefactor, as a rule, is not stingy with these men. During their 
tenure of favor, before their final and inevitable relegation to obscurity or 
some worse fate, the close collaborators, especially those with access to the 
private aspects of Trujillo's life, are rewarded with gifts and business oppor- 
tunities. Wealth, however, is as precarious a thing as favor itself. Trujillo 
is a well-recognized "Indian Giver" and even his former mistresses are 
stripped of money and property when disgrace strikes. A few, however, of 
the down-graded aides have been allowed to keep their fortunes after they 
were no longer in the good graces of the Benefactor. "A Dominican high 
official must know," said one of the group, "that there is another certain 
thing besides death and taxes demotion." 

After demotion very few people have been given the chance to stage a 
real comeback. Many people are taken back into the fold after being severely 
punished and their special capabilities used for the benefit of the regime, 
but most of them never regain their former privileged positions of trust. 
Thus, with the passing of time, the circle of accepted representatives of the 
trujillista ideal grows increasingly narrower. The dubious distinction of a 
place in the inner sanctum at the National Palace is accorded nowadays 
only to men devoid of moral scruples, ready to carry out with no questions 
the most absurd commands received by the Generalissimo. Only those who 
by hook or crook manage to feed his hankering for narcisstic gratification 
with Msome praise and abject denial of self-respect are rewarded by the 
Benefactor with the rank of "Eagle Scouts" in his regime. 



without the country, make increasingly desperate efforts to present their 
hero as a shining crusader a sort of modern Archangel defending at all 
times Faith and cherished Christian traditions from the relentless assaults 
of the atheistic communist beasts. 

Patently pleased with his truth-squad's anti-Red build up, "the Chief 
proclaims, whenever he has an occasion, his exploits as the self-appointed 
bulwark of anti-communism. He has saved his country and humanity from 
the communists who, for reasons never clearly explained, have repeatedly 
chosen, among all nations, "the Big One's" republic as the target for their 
main attacks in the Western Hemisphere. No one knows why the commu- 
nists hate Trujillo so much, but if we are to believe "the Chief and his 
Madison Avenue experts, the hatred goes to the point where, in order to 
discredit the kind Benefactor, they have become accustomed to bumping off 
critics of the Dominican regime living on American soil. 

It is with horror that one must record the ease with which Trujillo has 
managed to make political capital out of the well-justified fear of commu- 
nism. Exploiting this widespread apprehension, this man who flouts the 
constitution of his land and derides his oath of office has achieved a self- 
assumed position of so-called leadership within the highly honorable anti- 
communist crusade. In the name of democracy, Trujillo has acquired a free 
ticket for trampling upon the liberties and freedoms without Which democ- 
racy is a sham. And, worst of all, not always is this proclamation of "demo- 
cratic" leadership looked upon as a spurious by-product of a well-greased 
propaganda apparatus. This brazen stand so obviously tainted with cyni- 
cism and hypocrisy has earned the Benefactor a reputation as a "useful" 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 270 

and "friendly" dictator in certain sectors of American officialdom. He is 
seemingly accepted without reservation by political leaders of high stand- 
ing, including such distinguished members of the American Congress as the 
House Majority leader John McCormack (D.-Massachusetts) and the senior 
ranking Republican of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Alexander 
Wiley, of Wisconsin. 

Trujillo's overriding passion for power has upon several occasions brought 
him into close contact with totalitarianism of both the right or left varieties, 
both at home and abroad. His ventures into totalitarianism have included 
deals and alliances with practically every dictatorship of any importance in 
contemporary history. Aside from his close relations with all Latin Ameri- 
can strong-men, from Juan Peron to Marcos Perez Jimenez, his known flirta- 
tions with Mussolini, Hitler, Franco and Stalin are now a part of history. 

The Generalissimo's natural inclinations have led him to look for, not 
always wisely, rapprochements with Old World totalitarians. Yet, anyone 
who carefully analyzes the intricate maneuvers of this political strategist 
will discover that he has an uncommon ability to detect the faintest sign of 
a shift of wind. Whenever the tide of favor turns away from one of his allies 
he will cut his relations with that man. Whenever reasons of expedience 
make advisable the severance of dubious connections, this cunning, unfaith- 
ful and unscrupulous operator has dropped his fellow travelers without hesi- 
tation or remorse. 

As a firm believer in only one "ism" that of Trujilloism the Benefactor 
has displayed unusual dexterity in getting rid in due time of each one of the 
perilous associations upon which he has entered. Sometimes he has nearly 
lost his equilibrium, but never has he tumbled into disaster. His shrewd- 
ness, his subtle hypocrisy, his innate dishonesty, and his unbelievable good 
fortune have, in each instance, saved him. 

Nowadays he plays ball with Washington and bullies the small nations of 
the Caribbean. This he has found to be a much more satisfactory set-up 
than his former love affairs with the wolves of Europe. That his heart still 
beats in totalitarian rhythm is proved, however, by his close and apparently 
genuine friendships with such men as Francisco Franco. The situation is 
understandable enough, for no matter how much love he pretends to feel 
for democracy, he will always be on guard and ill at ease in Washington, 

For the Benefactor to deal with Fascists is no novelty. The beginning of 
his association with foreign brands of totalitarianism may be traced back to 
the days when he still was an obscure army officer, lacking in social pres- 
tige and political standing. In those days he enjoyed a close diplomatic and 
personal relationship with Mussolini. It was II Duce who awarded General 
Trujillo the first foreign medal ever to gleam from his chest. On January 11, 
1929, the Consul of His Majesty the King of Italy pinned to General Tru- 
jillo's dress uniform the medal of Commander of the Crown of Italy. 


This rapport had a curious and perhaps amusing epilogue. After more than 
six years of cordiality between the Fascist regime and the Trujillo adminis- 
tration, the Benefactor fell victim to a congenital weakness: greed. Due to 
a "grab" attempted by the Benefactor, a sudden coolness came over the re- 
lations between the two countries and there was even some talk of Italian 
sailors landing on Dominican soil. This "rhubarb" started when the Italian 
Consul, Amadeo Barletta, became involved in a sordid disagreement with 
Trujillo over which of them should enjoy the sole rights of selling cigarettes 
and distributing motor cars in Dominican territory. 

To settle the difference, Trujillo promptly threw the Consul in jail and, 
as is his custom, charged his enemy with a combination of political and 
common crimes plotting against the regime and tax evasion. The Italian 
government strongly protested the action, and when their note met with 
complete silence, // Duce threatened to send a warship to the island. To 
avoid such an extreme unpleasantness, the Italian Consul was released and 
Mussolini mollified, but this bitter incident cooled, if it did not actually kill, 
the friendship started under such promising auspices a few years before. 
Nevertheless, Fascist activities were not totally curbed in the Dominican Re- 
public and the Italian regime continued to spread its propaganda, through 
radio stations and subsidized dailies, until the moment when the United 
States entered World War II. 

Though seemingly a diplomatic defeat, the Barletta incident was presented 
during the war not as a predatory expedition in the field of business but as 
a proof of the high democratic principles of the Dominican dictator. In a 
pamphlet entitled Nuestra Actitud (Our Attitude), the Dominican Foreign 
Minister Manuel Arturo Pena Battle portrayed "the Chief" as a true demo- 
crat who had actually initiated the fight against Fascism in the Western 

Trujillo's dealings with Hitler were founded upon a sounder basis. The 
relationship between the Caribbean's Little Caesar and the Fuehrer pro- 
gressed with more speed and cordiality than did the Mussolini-Trujillo en- 
tente. "The Chief" has always been a convinced admirer of everything Hitler 
stood for and of Germany's economic and military might. The problem of 
working out an agreement between the two regimes was an easy matter, 
and a warm friendship quickly developed between the Dominican Republic 
and the Third Reich. 

After a series of transatlantic overtures, German agents were moved into 
the Dominican Republic to occupy strategic positions. They worked in the 
usual guises of scientists, medical research men and trade representatives* 
In a reciprocal gesture the Benefactor sent a special mission to Germany 
prepared to offer the fullest cooperation with the Nazis and to establish a 
barter agreement in the economic field. To the natural discomfort of both 
parties, news of these secret negotiations leaked out. They were exposed by 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 272 

La Voz, a Spanish language newspaper in New York City. This paper pub- 
lished an account of an impending agreement between Germany and the 
Dominican Republic under which Hitler would settle 40,000 able-bodied 
Nazis along the always sensitive Haitian-Dominican border. At the same 
time it was reported that Trujillo, in partnership with a syndicate of influ- 
ential Nazi officials, was interested in a gold washing venture in the north- 
western part of the Republic. These deals failed to materialize, due no doubt 
to the advance publicity they received. 

Another more important project was carried through successfully with the 
establishment of the German-Dominican Institute in the Dominican capital. 
This organization staffed entirely by Germans had as its ostensible pur- 
poses the studying of tropical diseases and of making botanical investiga- 
tions throughout the country. Movements of this team of scientists were 
conducted in great secrecy and to ensure the success of the operation there 
was a liberal sprinkling of Gestapo agents among the German personnel. 
Very few Dominicans set foot inside the headquarters of this so-called In- 
stitute. Years later it was established beyond any doubt that the Germans 
did not devote themselves so much to the study of tropical diseases as to 
the study of marine plant life and water depths off the Dominican coast. 
Their main task was to draw up charts of Dominican shore lines and har- 
bors and to establish strategic shelters and fuel depdts for German U-boats. 

One measure of the rapport between the Third Reich and the Dominican 
Republic was that Dominican official circles were seriously considering 
changing the compulsory study of English in public schools to that of Ger- 
man. Overtures of friendship were continuous and deepening. In Trujillo's 
message to his Congress on February 27, 1936, he proudly announced that 
he had been awarded the medal of the Ibero-American Institute of the Uni- 
versity of Hamburg. This organization, as became known later, was a front 
for the espionage activities then conducted under the direction of General 
Wilhelm von Faupel, Latin-American expert in the Nazi hierarchy. 

In 1938, at the summit of this friendly interchange a flotilla of German 
warships, led by the cruiser Emden, visited the Dominican Republic. Its 
arrival was followed by a series of social and official pleasantries. At the 
conclusion of this natural interchange of courtesies, the German flotilla 
made certain surprise appearances at isolated and strategic points along 
the country's coastline, including the famous Samana Bay. At points pre- 
arranged by the "German scientists," Nazi sailors stocked up fuel dumps to 
be used at a later date by German submarines on combat duty in the Carib- 
bean. Time has made it clear that this apparent "good-will" visit by a part 
of the Nazi navy made possible the great success of the U-boats that prowled 
the Caribbean at the beginning of 1942, nearly crippling navigation in those 
vital sea-lanes. 

"The Chief," of course, will swear that he knew nothing about German 


activities in his country, but it is doubtful that such a vast long-time opera- 
tion could be carried out without the full knowledge and at least passive 
compliance of the local authorities. 

Upon successful completion of "Operation Emden," the members of the 
"German-Dominican Institute" were recalled one by one by the German 
government. They left behind an espionage set-up whose members weie 
"business men" seemingly engaged in legitimate commercial ventures. To 
keep their contacts with the Dominican upper-crust the Nazis began to use 
the already established channels of the Spanish totalitarian organization 
Falange. The latter group was operating freely within the Dominican Re- 
public. Due to its large membership within the Spanish colony in the coun- 
try, as well as for reasons of language, customs and traditions, Falange was 
considered a most appropriate vehicle for the infiltration of Dominican in- 
stitutions. Through the Spanish group the Nazis got a foothold in the old 
Trujillo-controlled Listin Diario* To handle its totalitarian-fed foreign news 
department, Listin employed a young journalist, Enrique deMarchena, who 
later rose to such official positions as Foreign Minister and head of the 
Dominican delegation to the United Nations. 

The attitude of the Dominican press best illustrates the complicity of the 
Trujillo regime with the Nazi-Fascist axis. Even privately owned Domini- 
can papers would never dare to pursue an editorial policy inimical to the 
thoughts and feelings of the Benefactor. Trujillo's orders, or at least com- 
placency, explain why Listin jumped openly on the Spanish nationalists' 
chariot from the outset, while the Dominican Government maintained dip- 
lomatic relations with the Loyalist regime during the Spanish Civil War, not 
recognizing Franco until its end. 

However, if for business reasons (Trujillo was selling huge quantities of 
cattle and foodstuffs to the Loyalists and the Dominican Legation in Madrid 
was making millions selling "safe-conducts" to Nationalists), the Dominican 
government maintained formal diplomatic relations with the Spanish Re- 
public, certain highly placed members of the Trujillo administration made 
no bones about their totalitarian sympathies. The then President of the Su- 
perior Board of the Partido Dominicano, Mr. Emilio Morel, wrote a series 
of pro-Franco articles in Listin Diario. As soon as Franco won the war 
Morel was appointed Dominican Minister to Madrid. Upon his arrival there 
his first official act was to place a wreath on the tomb of the founder of 
Falange, Jos6 Antonio Primo de Rivera, in the Benefactor's name. 

The Benefactor himself felt no qualms about fraternizing with Nazis and 
Nazi sympathizers. Dr. Carl T* Georg, a German physician who had come 
to the Dominican Republic in the early Twenties and established himself in 
San Pedro de Macoris in the country's sugar belt, was an habitu6 of the 
presidential box at theatrical functions and concerts. Georg was fairly well 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 274 

known in the Dominican Republic both for his philanthropy and his out- 
spoken preaching of Nazism. 

This obvious flirtation with Nazism could not go on for long without 
catching the eye of American intelligence. Soon Trujillo discovered that all 
Nazi sympathizers in the Dominican Republic, including himself, were under 
observation. But the Benefactor knew that as long as there was peace no 
one could do anything the Dominican Republic is a sovereign nation and 
any direct snooping by American officials or intelligence agents into the 
Generalissimo's intrigues would have been received with loud cries of "in- 
tervention," a word with nasty connotations in Latin America. 

About the beginning of 1939 word spread throughout the Dominican Re- 
public, where the fascist feelings of the regime were not universally shared, 
that the activities of those connected with the Nazis, including "the Chief," 
were being closely watched with a view to action in case war broke out. 
Taking the hint, Trujillo decided, for the first time, to take a long-postponed 
vacation in foreign lands. He was not President any more and he could not 
be blamed officially for the things to which the Americans were objecting. 

While the trip was in progress the Benefactor finally met his share of trou- 
ble. Upon arrival in United States waters his yacht was thoroughly inspected 
by federal authorities who found that its powerful wireless set was more 
suitable for use on a battleship than on a pleasure boat. The set had to be 
whittled down to the bare necessities of transatlantic travel and "the Chief" 
had to sail away on the Ramfis (formerly the Camargo of the Fleishman 
family) with a considerably less powerful transmitter than he had arrived 
with. In France, where the Trujillo family was sojourning, the press did not 
wait long before attacking the Benefactor for his fascist sympathies. Alto- 
gether it was not a pleasant period for the Benefactor, and to avoid further 
inconveniences he decided to alter the rules of the game. Without risking a 
clean-cut break with the Nazis, he began to use more caution in dealing with 
the totalitarian powers. For one thing, he stopped altogether further direct 
deals with the dictatorships. As intermediaries he chose the Spanish Lega- 
tion in Ciudad Trujillo and the Benefactor's Minister in Madrid, Emilio S. 

The Spanish Legation was entrusted with the delicate mission of trans- 
mitting confidential correspondence between Germany and the Dominican 
Republic. The Spanish diplomatic mission was also employed as a forward- 
ing station for the information service the Axis maintained in the Caribbean. 
German and Italian diplomats in Ciudad Trujillo were left as mere figure- 
heads, although they continued to entertain the local bigwigs lavishly, par- 
ticularly on such occasions as the fall of Paris. 

Other signs of the impending shift were the new directives secretly passed 
to the local press. During the period between the beginning of the war in 
Europe and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Listin Diario and Diario 


de Comercio continued at full blast their job of spreading Nazi propaganda. 
From the Listin newsroom de Marchena would broadcast several times a 
day the latest news about the German victories and practically nothing else. 
On the other hand, La Opinion, whose owner Rene de Lepervanche 
was a French national, took an early pro-Allies stand. Furthermore, from 
its first issue the new Trujillo-owned daily La Nacidn made clear that its 
editorial policy and general presentation of news would be favorable to the 
Franco-British coalition. 1 At the same time, by further adroit maneuvering 
and sheer power of double talk, it was possible for "the Chief" to escape 
new complications. He even managed to score a point when upon his per- 
sonal instructions (a thing he took pains to make clear) the Dominican dele- 
gation to the Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, held 
in Havana in July, 1940, offered dramatically "the land, the sea and the air" 
of the Dominican Republic for the purpose of hemispheric defense. 

It may well be that Trujillo's brand-new democratic pose fooled a lot of 
people, but not all people. For instance, the influential Puerto Rican news- 
paper El Mundo, in an expose of Nazi schemes in Latin America, asserted 
that the "center of the [Nazi] conspiration and of Hitler's plan to conquer 
America has been the Dominican Republic." In an article printed on August 
3 1, 1941, El Mundo pointed out that a thorough investigation had led one of 
its reporters to feel assured that German fifth column activities had been es- 
tablished in Santo Domingo "formally and definitely for more than four 
years" and cited as the "center of the conspiration" the German-Dominican 
Scientific Institute. 

Upon the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Benefactor announced, 
from the United States which he was visiting, that his country would enter 
the war immediately at the side of the Americas. He momentarily forgot 
that he was no longer President, but the faux pas proved of no consequence 
as the Dominican Congress waited in session until a message arrived from 
Trujillo before deciding upon a proposed declaration of war on the Axis 
powers. Though the only Dominicans who actually fought in the war were 
those inducted into the American army, "the Chief" has since bragged of 
Ms war-time exploits. 

The Dominican entrance into the war had no permanent effect on Tru- 
jillo's sympathies with Nazism. A group of his cronies kept proclaiming 
for all to hear their allegiance to the Nazis. So embarrassing became this 
attitude that the representatives of the Allied powers felt under obligation 

l To this day it is still a matter of controversy among well-informed Dominicans as 
to whether La Nacidrfs editorial policy was a deliberate movement on the part of 
Trujillo or whether it was a matter of simple coincidence due to the selection of 
Rafael Vidal as its first editor. It seems, however, that Trujillo had been advised by 
his American brain-trust to launch his own newspaper as a democratic bulwark in 
order to disprove the accusation of Nazi sympathies. Knowing VidaFs liberal prin- 
ciples, it was natural that Trujillo should bring him back from oblivion. 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 276 

to impress upon Trujillo the need for putting an end to such indiscretions. 
As a result, several of the more outspoken officials were put in "moth 
balls" for the duration, including Major Miguel A. Paulino, the infamous 
boss of La 42. Once the war was over, however, Paulino was restored to 
his post as head of intelligence and shortly thereafter appeared in the 
uniform of a lieutenant colonel of the Army. Currently he is a colonel, 
head of the Ciudad Trujillo garrison. 

Yet, if the allied nations could do little aside from sending courteous 
warnings wrapped up in diplomatic language about the local Nazis, they 
could do a lot about the foreign agents roaming freely within the country. 
They knew so well the identity and whereabouts of each one of them that 
in a matter of a few days a large dragnet had successfully hauled in all the 
spies (including Trujillo's pal Dr. Georg) and they were sent for internment 
to United States camps. I still remember our widespread surprise at La 
Nation when meek, innocent-looking, five-foot-tall Mr. Spitta, one of our 
translators, was sent along with the rest to the United States as a dangerous 
Nazi agent. For several months he had been with us in the news room with- 
out arousing suspicions about his exciting double life. 

For the Benefactor it is almost impossible to stay out of trouble for long 
periods. In June 1942 alert American intelligence agents discovered that 
the Captain of a Spanish ship had deposited $300,000 in a Ciudad Trujillo 
bank in old American gold-certificate notes. Reportedly the money was going 
to be used to meet the cost of a tobacco shipment from the Dominican Re- 
public. The fact, however, that this was a very unusual transaction, since 
export shipments are usually paid with sight drafts and other commercial 
papers, led to the suspicion that the money was really intended for some 
other purpose perhaps for the payment of Nazi agents in the Americas. 
Another suspicious little detail was that the serial numbers of the American 
bills corresponded to those of money known to have been in circulation in- 
side Germany and, therefore, frozen at the beginning of the war. 

Naturally enough, American Treasury agents were interested to learn 
more about this large amount of cash. When the Benefactor stalled, showing 
a suspicious reluctance to surrender the bankroll, the story was quietly leaked 
to several newspapers in the Caribbean area. Fearful of unfavorable pub- 
licity, the Benefactor thereupon stopped balking. He promptly announced 
that he was confiscating the $300,000 and delivering it to the American 
authorities which he did. 

The American writer Allan Chase, in his book Falange, reports that until 
the news broke in the press, "the Big One" had been maneuvering to con- 
vert the money into less "hot" currency. According to Chase, the Benefac- 
tor "had been attempting to convert the money into Cuban currency." His 
agent in this transaction had been Sanchez Arcilla, former staff writer of 


the Diario de la Marina, who was serving as Cuba's Minister to Santo 

This rebuff came on top of many rumors around the Caribbean that Tru- 
jillo was allowing the Germans to use the Dominican coastline for refueling 
their U-boats, which were then playing havoc in West Indian waters. At this 
point the Caribbean master of deceit came up with a good one in answer to 
these persistent rumors: he proudly announced that he too had been the 
victim of Nazi submarines. He had lost his two best ships in the submarine- 
infested Caribbean Sea. The sinking of the ships was true; but the feeling 
in the Dominican Republic has long been that both (suspiciously sunk in 
rapid succession after several months of safe operation) were scuttled to 
prove "the Chief's" point. The purpose, so the story goes, was double first, 
to collect the insurance, and second, to put an end to a situation which was 
becoming embarrassing. For several weeks a Cuban radio station had been 
observing that ships from every nation but the Dominican Republic had 
been sunk in the Caribbean. Proclaimed the radio station: "Travel on Tru- 
jillo's merchant ships if you want to be safe." 

Notwithstanding Trujillo's frantic efforts to stop the rumors about his 
close ties with the Nazis, the subject once again aroused widespread atten- 
tion when the late Andr6s Requena, then a Dominican diplomat, jumped 
ship while serving in the Dominican Embassy in Santiago, Chile. Upon his 
escape, early in 1943, Requena let it be known that he had in his possession 
plenty of evidence about the Generalissimo's secret dealings with Hitler. 

When Requena arrived at Havana a plane was already waiting for him 
and he was flown at once to the United States. It is understood that Requena 
surrendered all the evidence in his possession to the proper intelligence 
authorities, but the long-awaited blast was not forthcoming. Whether the 
documents taken by Requena from the Santiago Embassy's files were not 
incriminating enough or, as Trujillo promptly claimed, they were not au- 
thentic is something that has never been officially told. The results of the 
investigation, if any, were not made public and to all intents and purposes 
the Benefactor emerged from the procedure cleared of all charges. 

Whether or not the American authorities believed Trujillo's protestations 
of innocence is also unexplained. The best guess is that, confronted with the 
alternatives of taking a strong action against an allied regime in the middle 
of the war or accepting Trujillo's promise of mending his ways, the United 
States Government followed the latter course as a matter of expediency. 
Otherwise they would have had to take strong action inconsistent with 
avowed policies of non-intervention, For the sake of Western Hemisphere 
solidarity, so it seems, Trujillo was spared the experience of being exposed 
as a traitor to the cause he was claiming to espouse. 

Trujillo could not rest in peace, however. He could never be sure that 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 278 

other incriminating documents were not going to fall into Allied hands, par- 
ticularly at the end of the war, whose outcome he did not have to be a prophet 
to forecast. The fortunes of war had definitely tipped the balance on the 
United Nations side and he felt it was high time to prepare a convincing 
alibi "just in case." He needed to be able to produce within a short time 
a scapegoat he could hang on the scaffold of Nazi collaboration. 

This scapegoat was found in the person of Emilio Morel, the man who 
knew most about Trujillo's dealings with the Nazis. This master stroke was 
intended to make possible the kiUing of two birds with one stone to ex- 
onerate the Benefactor from any responsibility springing from the secret 
dealings that had been conducted on his behalf with the Nazis in Madrid, 
and to remove the man (Morel) who knew most about the subject. 

To begin with, Trujillo spread a story of how his Minister to Spain had 
dealt secretly, behind his back, with the enemy. Morel was charged with pre- 
paring, unbeknown to the Benefactor, a detailed plan for eventual German- 
Dominican cooperation in the event of a Nazi victory. According to the 
Trujillo-inspired rumor, Morel had been promised the presidency of the 
Dominican Republic to ensure his betrayal of his country and political al- 

Upon launching this damaging rumor, Trujillo recalled his Minister from 
Madrid. The diplomat one of the earliest associates of the Benefactor 
knew too well the dark corners of his chiefs nature and refused to risk a 
return to the Dominican Republic. He decided to stay abroad at a safe dis- 
tance from the Generalissimo's revengeful arm. 

Furious over this defection, Trujillo unleashed upon Morel the customary 
campaign of vilification. He was publicly accused of all sorts of improper 
acts, among them of having stolen the funds of the Dominican Legation in 
Madrid. That the charges were coarse fabrications is proved by the fact that 
Morel was granted asylum in the United States, where he lived until his 
death in 1958. 

Emilio Morel discovered at last how ephemeral is the glory of trujillismo. 
No journalist had basked more in the Dominican literary sunlight than 
Morel; he was Trujillo's favorite writer and had occupied positions of trust 
alongside the Generalissimo. Now, alas, he was finding that the Benefactor 
demands complete and lasting servility from his favorites. After years of 
favor, he was now branded as a "deserter," "thief," "traitor" and of aU 
things "slanderer!" 

As a hangover from the days of his admiration for Hitler remains Tru- 
jillo's vigorous championship of Franco's Spain and all that Spain rep- 
resents. Trujillo never misses an opportunity to pay tribute to the Mother- 
land's "spiritual guidance" and he appointed himself, during the days of 
the United Nations boycott of Spain, as the chief advocate of the Franco 
regime in the UN, 


During the war years Franco and Trujillo rendered each other mutual 
services and the Spanish Legation in the Dominican capital was allowed 
not only to transmit orders from Madrid to the Falange groups in the 
country, but also to act as a clearing-house for highly confidential mate- 
rial sent by the Nazis to Dominican government officials. 

To express his sympathy for Franco, the Benefactor chose the United 
Nations. "The Chief" not only paid less than lip service to the UN rec- 
ommendation about breaking relations with Spain, but jumped with en- 
thusiasm on the band-wagon of those pleading for Spain's admittance. 

When Spain was finally admitted into the United Nations late in 1955, 
the Dominican press hailed the event as a triumph for the Benefactor. 

The Benefactor's bootlicking activities were rewarded in 1954 with 
an invitation to come to Spain as guest of Generalissimo Franco. Prior 
to the invitation, Trujillo had bought an ancient Spanish castle which he 
reconditioned for his official lesidence during his visit. Madrid, according 
to Time, "dressed itself gaily in honor of the island nation's self-styled 
Benefactor, with fresh yellow sand in the streets and the red-yellow-red 
or the blue-white-red of the Spanish and Dominican flags floating from 
every window." 

When Franco and Trujillo exchanged backslapping embraces during 
the welcoming ceremony at the Principe Pio Station, "an emotional tear 
rolled down Trujillo's cheek." "The immediate order of business," re- 
ported Time, "that afternoon was for the two rulers to decorate each other. 
First, the Benefactor pinned the Order of Trujillo upon Franco, saying 
'Generalissimo, this could not rest on a more noble and heroic breast,' 
Then the Caudillo presented the Grand Collar of Isabel la Catolica to 
Trujillo, saying, 'Generalissimo, in few cases has the decoration I am 
giving you been so well deserved.' The mutual admiration over, they 
plunged into the crowded twelve-day program bullfights, receptions, 
luncheons, hunting and sightseeing that the Caudillo had planned for 
his guest." 

A new era in the relations between Spain and the Dominican Republic 
was inaugurated. On Trujillo's return from the Old World a new flow of 
Spanish conquerors discovered Hispaniola. These new discoverers were 
made up, as were the crews of Columbus's ships, of all sorts of people, 
from poor dispossessed farmers to impoverished noblemen, from illiterate 
hoodlums to schemers of grandiose and fantastic projects. 

Among others, a group of Army officers came to the Dominican Re- 
public to instruct the Benefactor's soldiers and a contingent of policemen 
were brought in to reinforce the local Secret Police, 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 280 



much political hay out of an allegedly uncompromising anti-Communist 
stand as has Trujillo. For years his public relations master-minds have 
concentrated, particularly for the benefit of the United States, on depict- 
ing the Benefactor as the "first anti-communist of the hemisphere," The 
Dominican dictator himself has repeatedly asserted that the benefit of Ms 
wise counsel on anti-Red matters has been sought by investigating bodies 
in both the executive and legislative branches of the American Govern- 
ment. 2 Yet, the only time that the Communist Party, then known as 
Partido Socialista Popular (Popular Socialist Party), ever blossomed leg- 
ally and freely in the Dominican Republic was during a year-long period 
in 1946-47, with the Benefactor's blessing and sponsorship. 

Prior to his discovery of anti-communism as a justification for domestic 
violation of basic freedom, the Generalissimo had entered upon a series 
of deals with the Dominican Reds as well as on flirtations with the Kremlin 
itself on the diplomatic level and with the most noted of the international 
leaders of what he was to vigorously denounce later as "the communist 
conspiracy on the Continent," 

The first inkling of Trujillo's unexpected rapprochement with the Com- 
munists came in the form of his noiseless repeal of all laws punishing 
communist activities in the country (in 1936, as a result of the Spanish 
Civil War, Trujillo had made Congress pass stringent provisions against 
"communists and anarchists"), a move which followed closely Dominican 
entrance into World War II. Then the cagey Generalissimo tried to make 
the most of the occasion. To the July 1943 conference of the Executive 
Committee of the Communist-dominated Confederaddn de Trabajadores 
de America Latina (CTAL), headed by the renowned fellow-traveller and 
self-styled "independent Marxist" Vicente Lombardo Toledano, Trujillo 
sent a former cabinet member, Dr. Wenceslao Medrano, and an official 
of the Foreign Ministry, Mr. Alberto Borda, as Dominican delegates. 

Despite the fact that the fake Dominican trade unions (then so patently 
under Trujillo's thumb that in each province they were presided over by 
the local governor) had never been members of CTAL, Medrano and 
Borda were not only accepted as legitimate representatives of the op- 
pressed Dominican workers, but were seated in all executive committee 

2 During a visit he made to the United States in the summer of 1954, TrujiUo made 
a statement to the press whereby he made it known that his files on the subject of 
communist infiltration in the Western Hemisphere had been placed at the disposal of 
a House Subcommittee of Investigation, then presided over by Republican Congress- 
man Patrick J. Hillings. 


meetings, attended on that occasion by seventeen delegates, of whom 
eleven were known communists. A delegate of the so-called Confederation 
Dominicana del Trabajo (CDT) attended the Third Congress of the 
CTAL in Call, Colombia, in December 1944. The CDT (later the CTD) 
remained affiliated with the CTAL until 1948. 

Then, for the celebration of the first centennial of the Dominican na- 
tional independence, in February 1944, it was announced that the Soviet 
Union was sending a special mission composed of two of its diplomats, 
Dimitri Zaikin and Victor Ibertrebor. The presence of the Soviet diplo- 
mats at this celebration was hailed by Dominican propagandists as a 
heaven-sent boost for the Generalissimo. This, however, was only part of 
a vaster political scheme. On March 12, 1945, the Dominican foreign 
office released a diplomatic note announcing that as a result of "conversa- 
tions between the Dominican Republic and the Soviet Union" both coun- 
tries had agreed to establish diplomatic relations. According to the com- 
munique the talks had taken place in Mexico City between the Domini- 
can Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Lie. Manuel A. Peiia Batlle, and the 
Soviet Charge d' Affairs, Vasily P. Yakuvoiky. 

Without waiting for the Soviet Union to name its diplomatic represent- 
ative, Trujillo proceeded to appoint Dr. Ricardo Perez Alfonseca as Min- 
ister to Russia. While the new Minister was already on his way to Moscow 
to take over his post, the Benefactor sent a lengthy message to the Senate, 
on June 11, 1945, asking for the confirmation of the Perez Alfonseca 
appointment. Trujillo wrote: 

"The appointment of this distinguished diplomat, who passed the 
entire war period in Europe as head of our mission to the suffering and 
heroic city of London, to inaugurate the first Dominican Legation with 
permanent residence in Moscow, constitutes an act signifying the sincere 
desire of the Dominican Government to regularize officially and to estab- 
lish closer relations with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, relations 
that in fact have always existed between the Russian people and the Do- 
minican people, on the basis of mutual respect and cordiality." 

After praising the "heroic" Russian resistance during the war, Trujillo 
recalled the appointment of two Soviet diplomats to the Centennial festiv- 
ities. Then he added: "As a result of their noble and powerful contribu- 
tion to the victory of the United Nations, and of the imminent constitu- 
tion, in the historic Conference of San Francisco, California, of the world 
organization for the perpetuation of peace, security, justice, and coop- 
eration, the Soviet Union, whose material power has been made evident in 
defense of a high cause, will always be recognized as one of the great 
forces for good and progress upon which the democratic world can count." 

The Soviet Union never reciprocated the compliment. Soon Trujillo 
discovered the exasperating difficulty and the aggravating exhaustion of 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 282 

dealing with the Soviet Government. Despite the fact that rightist writers 
loudly proclaim the Dominican Republic as a pivotal land in the strategic 
chain of Caribbean islands and, as such, a continuing target of all com- 
munist attempts, the Soviet Union did not even bother to open a Con- 
sulate. The realization of Russian disinterest in the Benefactor marked the 
end of this phase of Dominican foreign policy. In 1946 Trujillo recalled 
P6rez Alfonseca, thus ending what one of his official biographers describes 
as "ephemeral and lukewarm relations." 

In the meantime, Trujillo had no trouble with communism locally. If 
there was any domestic communist movement it was very tiny and ineffec- 
tual, restricted to a few young intellectuals who, out of the frustrations 
they met in such a narrow society, were seeking salvation in the tenets 
of Marxism. Apparently their first contact with communist doctrine was 
through their readings of communist literature which by a strange quirk 
of Dominican censorship could be freely bought at any local bookstore. 
Many of the romantic Marxists of that epoch (the late thirties) such 
as Hector Inchaustegui, Jose Angel Savinon, and Ram6n Marrero Aristy 
were never militant communists and later turned out to be strong sup- 
porters of the Trujillo regime. It seems that their lofty ideology was the 
result of their financial insecurity, and that as soon as they became 
affluent their whole outlook on life changed. 

There were others who stuck to their Marxist guns and slowly but in- 
exorably achieved a definite political stand. So, when the first Spanish 
refugees arrived late in 1939, those of them who were avowed commu- 
nists found in certain intellectual and student circles fertile ground in 
which to work. As Galindez points out in his book: "when I arrived in 
the Dominican Republic in November, 1939, there already were commu- 
nists and pro-communists, I do not know if there was an organization, 
properly speaking. The only Dominican who spoke to me in those days 
in favor of communism, and who argued bitterly with me over various 
aspects of the Civil War in Spain for which I had attacked the communists, 
was the then obscure journalist, Jos6 Angel Savin6n. This young man was 
editor of Republic^ a publication which appeared in Ciudad Trujillo at 
the time of the Spanish Civil War, at first favoring the Spanish Republican 
cause in general but then little by little revealing a pro-communist tend- 
ency." The Galindez appraisal is supported by Jos6 Almoina, former 
private secretary of the Benefactor, who wrote a book entitled / Was Tru* 
jillo's Secretary, in which he calls Savin6n a "restless and fighting young 
university student" who had a reputation for "very liberal ideas and was 
even in sympathy with communism." About Marrero Aristy, author of a 
sociological novel entitled Over, dealing with the life of the exploited sugar 
workers, Almoina says that this was "an agile and advanced writer of so- 
cialist ideology akin to the Communist." 


It seems that in contact with the small but active group of Spanish 
communists a group of intellectuals finally established an underground 
Communist party, whose leaders were Francisco Alberto (Chito) Hen- 
riquez and Heriberto Nunez, the same judge who in 1930 had almost 
thrown a stumbling-block into TrujiUo's path to the Presidency. This 
group was particularly active in the sugar plantations of the eastern part 
of the country, where they organized in 1942 a strike, which was put down in 
a blood bath by the Dominican Army. At the time of this strike the Domini- 
can authorities ordered a roundup of the Spanish communists throughout 
the country, but they were later released. Some of them had been involved 
in the preparations for the sugar workers' strike. 

For another two years there was no political agitation in the country, 
except the usual rallies, meetings, lectures, homages and tributes or- 
ganized by the Partido Dominicano. Yet, around 1944, the United Nations 
democratic propaganda and the climate created by the Allies' successful 
fight against Nazism and Fascism in Europe and against Japanese imperi- 
alism in Asia were being felt in the Dominican Republic. There were long- 
drawn-out intellectual discussions among young students and professionals 
of different ideologies, but I myself know there were not yet although I 
suspect that the communists were already organized clearly established 
underground groups* 

At about that time, Pericles Franco Ornes returned to the Dominican 
Republic from Chile, where he had been studying on a Chilean govern- 
ment fellowship. He was destined to play an important role in the Do- 
minican communist movement as well as in the fight against the Trujillo 
regime. As in the case of many other communist leaders before him, Franco 
Ornes was the scion of two middle-class families from Santiago and 
Puerto Plata. He had left the country for Chile while still a teenager, 
more interested in learning the Australian-crawl swimming style than in 
politics. While in Santiago he got in contact with left-wing elements and 
it seems that shortly after he was converted to all-out Communism. 

When Franco returned to the Dominican Republic in 1944, he was al- 
ready a devout, disciplined communist, ready to start his assigned work 
among the Dominican university students. He made a lot of headway, if 
not in actually converting people to Communism at least in creating a 
strong underground movement of anti-Trojillo youngsters. This fierce 
and intent young man soon rallied around him quite a large group of 
young intellectuals and students, a few of whom became dedicated com- 
munists. Others were so democratically inclined that, although they did 
not sever relations with him, they did not join the communist ranks. As a 
result, the anti-Tnijillo underground split into three different groups. 
The communists rallied un<Jer the banners of the Partido Democratico 
Revolucionario (Dominican Democratic Revolutionary Party); a large 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 284 

number of elder intellectuals, professionals and businessmen formed the 
Vnidn Patriotica Revolutionaria (Patriotic Revolutionary Union); and 
the non-communist students and young professionals made up the Juventud 
Revolucionaria. The three organizations joined forces in the anti-Trujillo 
underground fight through an organization known as the Frente Nacional 
Democratico (National Democratic Front). This set-up I know well, for 
as a member of the Central Committee of the non-communist Revolu- 
tionary Youth I was also a member of the Front. 

The period between 1945 and 1946 was one of intense underground 
political activity, although due to the natural ideological differences be- 
tween the communists and the others the Front was never the cementing 
force it was intended to be. Sometimes the communists managed to give 
the impression of being more interested in furthering their own ends than 
in fighting Trujillo. As almost always happens when alliances are entered 
upon with them, they tried hard to dominate the Front, producing many 
a clash and slowing the actual work of organizing an underground. 

By the end of 1945 Trujillo had already spotted the work of the Front, 
and although unsuccessful in his initial attempts to destroy it, he managed 
to deal a few hard blows to the underground opposition. 

One of these opportunities was afforded by the opposition itself. Tak- 
ing advantage of the presence of a large number of foreign youngsters 
invited by the Dominican Government to participate in a Trujillo-con- 
trolled Youth Congress, the opposition decided to make a tour de force. 
On the night of May 18, 1945, groups of Revolutionary Youth and a few 
young communists joined forces to distribute anti-Trujillo pamphlets. In 
one night the whole city was covered with posters, handbills, and other 
sorts of literature. Even in the rooms of the Hotel Jaragua propaganda 
was placed. It was a successful operation, but the Government did not 
wait long to retaliate. 

A round-up of youth leaders and university students was carried out by 
the police under the command of then Lieutenant Colonel Ludovino Fer- 
nndez. Some of the leaders, including Chito Henriquez, Pericles Franco 
Ornes, and others took refuge in foreign embassies, but others were ar- 
rested and severely beaten by the police. A Cuban boy, Rafael Fernandez, 
was hospitalized because of injuries received at the hands of the police. 
On the next day an elderly printer, Ram6n Espinal, suspected of printing 
part of the anti-Government pamphlets, was shot and killed by the police 
near the Bank of Nova Scotia in the heart of Ciudad TrujUlo's business 
section. The owner of the printing shop, Julio C6sar Martinez Sobfi, 
escaped miraculously, taking refuge in the Embassy of Mexico. 

These and other blows had destroyed the Front's effectiveness by the 
spring of 1946. Until that moment the Patriotic Union had managed to 
keep its cadre almost intact, but by a curious twist of fate it was to be hit 


hard where it really hurt. In May 1946, General Federico Fiallo, Chief of 
Staff of the Army, while questioning the imprisoned communist leader 
Heriberto Nunez, asserted that when it came to serving the Benefactor he 
did not owe allegiance to anyone else, even his own family. Upon hearing this 
statement, Nunez got so indignant that without stopping to think about 
the further consequences of his words he said: "General, if that is so, you 
had better send right away for your three nephews, doctors Viriato,' An- 
tinoe and Gilberto Fiallo, who are the leaders of the Patriotic Union." 

FiaUo kept his word, but the arrest of his nephews brought about a 
chain reaction which totally wrecked the underground movement. All the 
members of the Front, myself included, went to jail. Trujfflo's under- 
ground opposition had been almost destroyed. 

The lack of an opposition would have been a blessing for Trujillo under 
normal conditions, but 1946 was not a normal year. The postwar period 
had brought a political upheaval in the countries surrounding the Domini- 
can Republic. The long suppressed democratic spirit was awakening in 
the Caribbean zone. In Cuba, Grau San Martin had succeeded Colonel 
Batista as a result of one of the cleanest elections in the annals of that 
Caribbean island. In Guatemala, a revolution had put an end to the hated 
Ubico dictatorship. In Caracas, Provisional President Romulo Betan- 
court announced that Venezuela would not recognize Trujillo and his 
"assassins of liberty." In London, just a few months before, the World 
Youth Conference had expelled the two Dominican representatives be- 
cause they did not represent a democratic regime. 

The writing was clear on the wall. In order to stay in power Trujillo 
would have to make concessions, but by a quirk of fate that was precisely 
the moment his Secret Police had chosen to dispose of the remnants of the 
underground opposition. 

Without waiting further Trujillo released most of his jailed opponents 
he did not even bother to file charges against them. Although not a man 
of much education, the Benefactor can read political predictions very well. 
He also knows that, as a rule, democratic winds of the sort then blowing 
subside sooner or later; the weathering of such storms is a matter of en- 
durance, patience and fortitude. He decided to ride with the wind and 
make temporary concessions. 

The internal opposition, however, was too sore to play ball with him. 
His amnesty went unheeded. So, with an election year approaching fast, 
"the Chief" tuified his eyes toward the exile groups living in Cuba and 
other countries. He sent an emissary to make contact with the Dominican 
exiles in Cuba. The person chosen was Ram6n Marrero Aristy, who still 
had a few Mends among the leftists in exile. 

The non-communist exiles, already preparing the forlorn revolutionary 
adventure of Cayo Confites, rejected Trujillo's overtures, suspecting that 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 286 

they were a hypocritical face-saving device. Help, however, came from an 
unexpected group: the communists! During a series of trips to Cuba ne- 
gotiations were conducted between Marrero and the communists which led 
to the formation of the Partido Socialista Popular (Popular Socialist 
Party) in the Dominican Republic. 

What actually happened during the negotiations is a well-kept secret 
which neither Trujillo nor the communists have yet let out. It seems, how- 
ever, that the communists were promised freedom to legally organize their 
party and a free hand in the reorganization of Dominican trade unions 
in exchange for a promise of never attacking Trujillo directly, a thing they 
refrained from doing at least while Trujillo kept his part of the deal. As a 
mark of the new friendship, Havana's communist paper Hoy lashed out 
at democratic Dominican exiles as "reactionary adventurers." Pointing to 
previous pacts between Stalinists and Latin American dictators, the demo- 
cratic exiles said: "First Nicaragua, then Brazil, and now the Dominican 
Republic. Lombardo Toledano and his Communist friends have become 
the technicians for the salvaging of Latin American tyrannies." 

Dominicans first knew of the new developments when La Opinidn 
published on July 1, 1946 a letter from the Central Committee of the 
Communist Party. La Nacidn immediately replied, expressing surprise 
that there was such a party in the country. There was a strange lull for 
more than a month and then, on August 18, La Nacidn published an 
official decree pardoning several political prisoners, including the known 
communist leader Freddy Valdez. 

On August 27, La Nacidn printed a manifesto of the newly created 
Partido Socialista Popular (Communist) in which its signers cited the 
statements made by the Benefactor favoring the formation of political 
parties and the return of exiles. Then they referred to themselves as 
Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist and stated their purpose of achieving their ob- 
jectives "by means of a struggle in accordance with the democratic rights 
and freedoms as contained in the Constitution now in force." Signers of 
the document were two labor leaders just arrived from Cuban exile, 
Mauricio Baez and Ram6n Grullon; Freddy Valdez, and a trujillista agent 
already infiltrated in the Central Committee of the PSP, Luis Escoto 
Gomez. 3 Illustrating the news story was a very poor photograph of the 
new hierarchy of Dominican communism. 

Commenting editorially upon this "communist manifesto," La Nacidn 
under the headline of "Communism Comes Out into tBe Light" posed 
the following question: "What better reply with respect to the existence 
of a democratic government than the fact itself of the formation of the 

8 Years later Escoto Gomez was an Inspector of the Partido Dominicano and an 
Under Secretary of State of the Interior and Police. 


Partido Sodalista Popular and the fact that its leaders can express them- 
selves in such terms?" Next day, however, the same daily showed another 
aspect of the problem. It printed a letter signed by six government em- 
ployees in which they said that they had considered joining the Partido 
Sodalista Popular, but had refrained from this "insane idea" when they 
saw the photograph of its leaders, "wretched ones . . . with the genuine 
aspect of troglodytes," 

The trap was set. While Trujillo in letters to members of his Cabinet 
and to Congress was breathing the spirit of moderation, order, peace, co- 
existence and democracy, his henchmen, particularly Virgilio Alvarez 
Pina, then President of the Partido Dominicano, took an uncompromising 
attitude, admonishing their followers to "annihilate and crush anyone who 
tries to deprive them of the political gains obtained under Trujillo's leader- 
ship." Thus when the request for registration of the PSP was formally 
denied, Trujillo himself wrote a letter to his Secretary of the Interior, 
J. M. Bonetti Burgos, recommending that the Party's registration be ac- 
cepted. In this letter, La Natidn, October 16, 1946, Trujillo wrote: 

". . . Communism, whose existence in the Republic is now an important 
fact, has its undoubted origin in the organizations of the Union of Soviet 
Socialist Republics, and in order to understand its role in guiding political 
and social activities, it would be well not to forget the self-sacrificing co- 
operation which the U.S.S.R. gave to the democracies in the recent World 
War. Its existence among us, furthermore, is a round and eloquent re- 
buttal to those calumniators who without foundation accuse the Domini- 
can Republic of not being a democratic country. . , ," 

The communists promptly expressed their gratitude to the Generalis- 
simo in a letter printed by La Natidn on October 18. But Alvarez Pina 
expressed his energetic opposition to his boss's attitude in a letter also 
printed in. the same daily. The stage show was proceeding on schedule 
with all in the cast performing faithfully their assigned roles. Almost a 
year was to pass before Trujillo himself shifted to the oratorical style 
of his followers, but by then the cold war had already started and it was 
no longer fashionable to speak words of democracy to communists. 

In the meantime the communists had kept themselves active. The main 
emphasis was put on the organization of the trade unions and the prepara- 
tion of a labor congress to form a new central labor union. To this con- 
gress came a group of Lombardo Toledano's leading aides, the Cubans 
Buenaventura Lopez and Ursinio Rojas, and the Mexicans Fernando 
Amilpa and Luis G6mez. A sort of "united front" was achieved inside 
the new Confederacidn de Trabajadores Dominicanos (CTD). The most 
important executive post, that of Secretary General, was given to a tru- 
lillista, Julio C6sar Ballester, but the communists assured for themselves 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 288 

most key positions. The post of Organizational Secretary went to Mauricio 
Baez and that of Cultural and Propaganda Secretary to Ramon Grullon. 
The opening speech of the congress was delivered by the Benefactor. 

From Cuba more communists had arrived. They were Chito Henriquez 
and Felix Servio Doucoudray. The only leader still absent was Pericles 
Franco Ornes, the top actor in the Dominican communist vaudeville. 

Up to this time the going had been smooth for both sides. Trujillo was 
having his loyal opposition, and, for that matter, an opposition circum- 
scribed to the communists. The Reds on the other hand were acting freely 
within the labor movement. Both were seemingly keeping their promises. 
Yet, in the latter part of October two things were to happen that would 
destroy the harmony of this cozy scheme. 

The first was the sudden appearance on the political stage of a new 
opposition group named Juventud Democratica (Democratic Youth). 
This organization made up of University students and young professionals 
(along the lines of the earlier Revolutionary Youth) played an utterly 
ambiguous role. Although its President, Dr. Virgilio Diaz Grullon, and 
many of its leaders were not communists, there is no question that its 
rank and file were heavily infiltrated by the Reds. Furthermore, it soon 
established a close alliance with the PSP, a fact that in the eyes of sus- 
picious government officials made the organization a Red satellite. 

This was the kind of organization the Benefactor could not allow to 
flourish. He had already had more than his share of trouble with students 
and nothing was farther from his plans than to go through an open fight 
with fiery students when an election was soon forthcoming. Moreover, 
Trujillo firmly believed, as do many people inside and outside his Gov- 
ernment, that Democratic Youth was a communist front and, hence, the 
product of a Red betrayal of the working agreement. Thereupon "the 
Chief" ordered the heavy guns of his propaganda machine to be trained 
on the new group. On October 17 there appeared in La Opinidn a savage 
assault on Democratic Youth under the headline of "Down with the Mask, 

Whether or not Democratic Youth was communist-dominated or only 
communist-infiltrated is rather academic. The truth is that from the out- 
set both groups operated jointly in the organization of a number of politi- 
cal rallies which provoked a violent reaction in high official circles. After 
the appearance of Democratic Youth hostilities broke out in full swing, 
and for the first time the communists used their small newspaper El 
Popular to launch sharp attacks on Trujillo himself. 

The second and perhaps most important event proved to be the show- 
down. The joint activities of the PSP and JD culminated in the announce- 
ment of a big public rally to be held in Colon Square on the night of 
October 26. Believing that with such a bitter publicity campaign against the 


two groups already under way, not many people would dare to show up, the 
authorities granted the license to hold the rally. During the day, however, 
disquieting reports were received about the preparations and more impor- 
tant still, about the surprising expectation of a big crowd. 

The government first tried, through Marrero Aristy, to dissuade the 
Communists, but to no avail. Then hoodlums, "veterans'* and retired 
members of La 42 were hurriedly summoned to the offices of Major 
General (retired) J. Joaquin Cocco Hijo. There they received orders and 
were armed. 

Long before the scheduled hour of the meeting many more people were 
in Colon Square than Trujillo had ever been able to gather for one of his 
own rallies. Probably this crowd was not as well dressed as the trujillista 
ones but they made up with ardor what they lacked in sartorial elegance. 

Were all these people communists? Hardly. It seems that during the 
short period of anti-Trujillo propaganda all the dissatisfaction accumulated 
by the Dominican people in sixteen years of oppression had been chan- 
neled into the only organized opposition in existence. People did not ac- 
tually care about the ideological stand of the PSP and JD leaders as long 
as they were fighting Trujillo. They had scarcely heard of communism but 
they knew plenty about Trujillo. They had seen this group of youngsters 
fighting Trujillo openly, and what they were hearing stripped of its dia- 
lectical-materialism jargon they could easily understand. Other people 
went to the meeting out of curiosity. 

The faithful and the curious all got their share of clubbing from Tru- 
jillo's veterans that night. Shortly before the first speaker ascended the 
rostrum, strong-arm squads went into action. Wild fights broke out, and 
as a result the demonstration was disrupted. Then, contrary to the Gov- 
ernment's expectations, instead of the supposedly terrorized crowd run- 
ning for cover a strange thing happened. The feelings of hatred toward 
the regime seemed to be galvanized by the assault into a grim determina- 
tion to fight. Instead of everyone going home to lick their wounds in hid- 
ing, the whole body of people took to the streets, singing the Dominican 
National Anthem. The crowd paraded in front of several foreign em- 
bassies, including the American, where they showed their injured to the 
diplomatic representatives as evidence of Trujillo's widely advertised 
"democratic" procedures. 

The demonstration did not turn into riot due to the shrewdness of the 
Benefactor. Notified of what was going on by his astonished henchmen, 
Trujillo had the good sense to order his Chief of Police, Colonel Ludovino 
Fernandez, to stand pat. The police were instructed to watch the demon- 
stration without attacking the enraged crowd. They hoped that if the irate 
populace did not encounter resistance the drive would lose momentum. 
Trujillo was right The parade dissolved after much shouting, chanting of 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 290 

patriotic slogans, and hurling of insults at hated Colonel Fernandez, who 
that night passively heard a recounting of his many alleged crimes. The 
reprisals would come later. 

With his knack for turning apparent defeat into triumph, TrujiUo tried 
to profit from his setback. On that same night his faithful minion Manuel 
de Moya filed a circular telegram to American newspapers volunteering 
a slanted version of the happenings. As printed by the Miami Herald and 
reprinted by the New York Times, de Moya's cable read: "Last night 
(Saturday) the Communists tried a coup d'etat. They notified the au- 
thorities of their intention to hold a meeting. In the early afternoon they 
distributed knives, machetes and clubs, and at 10 P.M. attacked foreigners 
and unarmed citizens." 

The Dominican Information Center in New York followed suit with 
a communique along the same lines, adding that the Mexican Embassy 
had been "violated" during the disturbances. 

The United States Embassy in Ciudad Trujillo came out for the 
truth. To the New York Times a spokesman for the Embassy confirmed 
that an "incident" had occurred Saturday night, but it had involved no 
foreigners or foreign interests and the American embassy had not been 
"invaded" as Dominican reports had stated. According to the Times 
things happened in the following way: "The incident could more properly 
be described as a demonstration than as a riot," the spokesman told the 
Associated Press in New York by telephone. No deaths or injuries were 
reported and no gun-Jfiring was heard at the embassy. 

"The disturbance occurred in Ciudad Trujillo's Colon Park and some 
reports said that the rioters entered the United States and Mexican Em- 
bassies and the Cuban Legation. 

"The spokesman said he had received no reports that either the Cuban 
Legation or the Mexican Embassy had been entered. 

"He explained, however, that he understood that a group of demonstra- 
tors passed the Mexican and Cuban offices on their way to the United 
States Embassy. The group 'came to the chancery of the American Em- 
bassy/ he added. They were admitted into the office section of the em- 
bassy by a guard who was on duty. They came to make a report on the 
incidents of the evening. They were advised to return during office hours 
the following week/ " 

The Dominican Government has stuck to its version despite early defi- 
nite denials. In a slanderous "White Paper" on communism in the Do- 
minican Republic recently published (whose only claim to distinction is 
that it brands as a communist everyone who opposes Trujillo), the 
Minister of the Interior and Police asserts that the members of the PSP 
rioted against anti-communist Dominicans, leaving a toll of several 
wounded among both groups. "Various communists, armed with clubs. 


threw themselves into the attack, beating peaceful citizens who watched 
the communist meeting from a prudent distance. ... It was a major dis- 
order of the kind Dominicans have not seen since Trujillo inaugurated his 
era of peace and work." 

The happenings of October 26th gave the government a pretext for 
clamping down. Trujillo already had proof in his hands that he had 
granted a modicum of opposition and that only the Communists had 
taken advantage of the opportunity, since the rest of the citizenry were 
faithful trujillistas. Besides, after the American Embassy reaction to his 
distorted communiques he was not even sure he was causing any embar- 
rassment to the United States State Department, a motive many suspected 
then and now to be behind Trujillo's velvet-handed treatment of Commu- 
nists. La Nacidn on October 29 published an official notice requiring that 
official permission be obtained eight days in advance of any public meet- 
ing. From that time on no more public meetings were held by the two op- 
position groups. 

To stave off any new show of strength by the communists a wave of 
reprisals was set in motion, although Trujillo did not yet dare to touch the 
Party's leadership. Rank-and-file members met with economic reprisals, 
many were thrown in jail on trumped-up charges of common crimes, and 
a few "got lost." Lists of members of the PSP were passed around among 
employers with a short phrase from the military authorities "fire them." 
The trick always worked. 

Through agents infiltrated in the communist hierarchy, Trujillo was 
kept well posted about each and every movement of the opposition, 
The printer who published El Popular received visits from several govern- 
ment inspectors, who found a host of labor, health and taxation irregular- 
ities. That same day the newspaper began to print on a mimeograph ma- 
chine. Next came the newsboys. Their parents were told that there were 
regulations against barefooted boys walking the streets either at night or 
during school hours, which made the parents responsible. The leaders of 
the PSP had to peddle their own newspaper on Conde Street and other 
important thoroughfares. 

Nine months of this kind of political warfare were to pass before Tru- 
jillo took the final step of outlawing the communist party. In the mean- 
time in the pervading terror all progress by the communist movement was 
stalled. Not that the communists were ever a mass party. In the heyday of 
its activities the PSP's membership never surpassed 2,000, and not all of 
those who joined the party were convinced communists. Many antitru- 
jillistas joined simply because the communists were the only ones fighting 
the regime inside the country. The American writer, W, H. Lawrence, in 
an appraisal of communist strength in Latin America published by the 
New York Times on December 30th, 1946, pointed out accurately; 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 292 

"Although this nation (the Dominican Republic) is governed by a tight 
dictatorship, President Rafael Trujillo recently has permitted some open 
activity by the Partido Socialista Popular or Popular Socialist Party, 
which is in fact a Communist group with perhaps 2,000 supporters. Its 
importance lies in the fact, however, that it is the only open rallying point 
for anti-Trujillo sentiment. Its public rally of Sept. 14 was the first op- 
position meeting permitted since President Trujillo came to power. 

"There are good signs that the Communists have made progress in 
undermining the Trujillo Administration in the labor unions, which, on 
the surface at least, are Government controlled." 

By the beginning of 1947 a tighter official policy was much in evidence. 
On January 29, 1947, the President of the Dominican Party, Virgilio 
Alvarez Pina, told the Attorney General that the communists were ready 
to intensify their activities due to the announced visit of the Secretary 
General of the United Nations, Trygve Lie. Alvarez Pina asked prompt 
intervention by the judicial authorities. 

On February 18 Alvarez Pina made another anti-communist pronounce- 
ment, blaming the Spanish refugees for the introduction of the "infectious 
virus of communism." And in March, upon the occasion of the return to 
the country of Pericles Franco Ornes, the attacks were renewed, not only 
against the communists but Democratic Youth as well. Although it was 
never reported at the time, the "White Paper" states that the communists 
were trying to put over at this time a plot to assassinate the Benefactor. 
The truiillista report, probably apocryphal, says that the Reds even chose 
the "assassin" by lot. The man who "won" the drawing, Ercilio Garcia 
Bencosme, according to the White Paper, refused to carry out his mission. 

Physical attacks on the members of the PSP and JD became common- 
place. One of the most abusive assaults was perpetrated on the person of 
a young lady, a member of Juventud Democrdtica. A prostitute tore the 
girl's clothes off right on the sidewalks of the Palace of Justice in Ciudad 
Trujillo. No action was ever taken against the prostitute. 

In the following weeks all the members of the PSP and JD who had 
not been able to get out of the country were arrested. On June 9 Tru- 
jillo created the "Commission of Investigation of Un-Dominican Activ- 
ities," made up of legislators, secret police, and military and government 
officials. Five days later Congress passed a law banning communist or 
anarchist groups or others opposed to the "civil, republican, democratic 
and representative form of government of the Republic." 

Writing about the aftermath of this strange political venture Jestis de 
Galindez says: "The young men arrested in 1947 remained in prison 
until early in 1950 when the Commission of Investigation of the Carib- 
bean Situation (of the Organization of American States) arrived in the 
Dominican Republic. An amnesty law was passed in February, and att 


were released except Freddy Valdez, who had died in prison, and who was 
said to have been assassinated. The principal communist leaders went into 
exile again shortly thereafter. 59 

The destruction of the tiny communist minority as well as practically 
every other known opposer of the regime had been completed. The brief 
pseudo-democratic interlude was over as well. The question of Trujillo's 
aims in playing with the communists has since been argued at great length. 
Many hypotheses have been advanced to explain the queer situation. Un- 
questionably the Benefactor reaped profits in more than one respect. He 
emerged with his hold over the country unshaken. He had, moreover, dis- 
covered a new and effective battle cry the "you communist" line so 
adroitly used in the years that followed. 

Furthermore, by playing with the communists and not with a demo- 
cratic opposition, "the Chief" was keeping up his sleeve a trump card. His 
American advisers had told him that sooner or later the wartime friend- 
ship between Russia and the United States was bound to deteriorate and 
give way to friction. They knew that there would be a reaction against 
Communism and by artificially creating and maintaining a Red minority 
inside the country he would later be in the position of playing the role of 
savior of his country from the Soviet menace. As his biographer Stanley 
Walker points out, "some observers say that the Trujillo regime likes to 
keep a few Communists in hand to be used as pets, stooges, whipping 
boys, or whatever the occasion demands. The idea makes some sense." 

There are many who believe that by allowing communism in the country 
Trujillo, who was irritated by a United States refusal to sell him arms, was 
trying to embarrass the State Department. In support of this conten- 
tion, it is pointed out that Trujillo's favorite theme in those days whenever 
a visitor expressed concern over the communist growth in the country was: 
"But, what can I do? It is the State Department that wants democracy 
and, unfortunately, my only opponents are communists." Further confir- 
mation may be found in the editorials printed about the subject by the 
controlled press, particularly the one that appeared in La Nacidn on August 
27, 1946, to salute the emergence of the communist movement. 

In a word, the so-called democratic stand of the Benefactor was preg- 
nant with political blackmail. The rationale was that the political activities 
of the communists could warn the United States Government that should 
it try to exert pressure on the Trujillo regime in order to ensure real 
democracy in the country the result would be the upsurge of a more 
powerful communist party. 

On the other hand, what did the communists stand to gain by playing 
with Trujillo? By entering into a deal with Trujillo they sought to gain a 
secure foothold within the Dominican labor movement. They knew that 
politically they did not have a chance, but when they eventually realized 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 294 

that they were being used by Trujillo to further his own aims they put up 
a courageous fight even to sacrificing their leaders and destroying chances 
of keeping an underground organization inside the country. 

It seems that when they agreed to come back to the country they de- 
cided to take a calculated risk. They knew that other exiled groups were 
already planning a military invasion of the Dominican Republic and they 
wanted to get ahead of them. Had the abortive Cayo Confites attempt 
triumphed, the new democratic government of the Dominican Republic 
would have found the communists akeady entrenched in the labor move- 
ment. Yet, when all their calculations along these lines failed to mate- 
rialize, they dragged down with them in their fall all that was good in 
the country, ending chances of a democratic solution for years to come. 



Rafael L. Trujillo does not dare to admit the existence of any opposition 
to his person. His police periodically make roundups of those suspected 
of harboring dangerous political ideas and some of these unfortunate 
souls "get lost," but "the Chief" incessantly strives to convey the impres- 
sion that everyone in the Dominican Republic (and sometimes even out 
of the country as well) is blindly loyal to him. 

This seemingly absurd craving for affection accounts for some of the 
baffling traits of the almost incredible Dominican situation. It is behind 
the stage-managed elections fixed in advance to show the people's over- 
whelming, unanimous love fot the Benefactor. It may be found as well 
behind Trujillo's intense hatred, expressed through slanderous editorial 
denouncements and Government-paid pamphlets, against certain foreign 
publications such as the New York Times and Time in the United States 
and Bohemia, in Cuba, whose objective and accurate appraisals of the 
Dominican regime have aroused "the Chief's" disgust. The same psycho- 
logically immature driving force is responsible for the strange show of 
universal accord discerning Dominicans have learned to put up whenever 
visitors question them concerning their feelings toward the Benefactor. 

This climate of well-nigh perfect harmony is responsible as well for the 
prevailing Dominican atmosphere of apathy and tranquility. This political 
vacuum is filled with tmjillista propaganda and the degrading cult of "the 
Big One's" personality. 

The trujillista cynicism, double-talk and sheer lack of ethical and moral 
scruples have had no counterpart in the Western World since the disap- 
pearance of Hitler and Mussolini. For instance, when the important facts 
that there are neither opposition parties nor newspapers are pointed out 
to Trujillo and his aides, they blandly explain the situation as a result of 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 296 

the existence in the country of some sort of natural harmony. Criticism 
of the government is lacking not because the regime has stifled it, but 
because no one has ever thought of any need for objections. 

To be fair, however, one should say that not all the alleged support 
of the regime is a fake. There are a few sincere, dedicated believers in the 
virtues of the administration, especially among those who have made their 
wealth and political fortunes under the tight control of the Benefactor 
and who know that a false step is enough to sink them in the depths from 
which they emerged. There are others, particularly among the illiterate 
peasants and workers, who have been swayed by the blaring trujtllista 
propaganda conducted through the radio and loudspeakers by trained 
crews of the Partido Dominicano. They believe what they hear. 

Then come those who have been carried along by the Trajillo-inspired 
wave of enthusiasm for building the nation. These people claim, as an 
excuse for their trujillismo, that the Benefactor has given the country gen- 
erations of material progress in less than three decades. Among these 
people are those who form the hard core of regression and reaction in the 
Latin American countries: the propertied class, always fearful of any 
civic upheaval, made up of the big landowners, the small but powerful, 
wealthy capitalist sector and the representatives of the foreign interests 
doing business in the country, who selfishly believe that their investments 
are better guaranteed by a feudal despot. 

These people, even though they suffer in their own flesh the pressure of 
Trujillo's methods and in private are perhaps the most severe critics of the 
administration's tax measures and fiscal policies, will never oppose the 
regime. TrujiHo means safety for them. Safety from the strict enforce- 
ment of the dead-letter, progressive social legislation already in the statute 
books; from the emergence of independent, free trade unions; from the 
long-postponed land reform; from radical political parties or, for that 
matter, political parties at all; from a critical responsible free press; in a 
word, from freedom itself. They have come to consider TrujDlo as the 
lesser evil and even if some of them do not like the Benefactor personally 
he can count upon their full support anyway. 

Last but not least among Trujillo's staunch supporters are the bureau- 
crats, high and low, as well as the professional politicians. Since the 
Dominican Church is overwhelmingly pro-TrajDlo, this has been a great 
source of support for a the Chief." The clergy, headed by the Archbishops 
Ricardo Kttini and Octavio Beras, are among the foremost propagandists 
for the regime. To these we must still add a great number of women to 
whom Trujillo gave the suffrage and whom the Church leads to the polls. 

But as always happens in Latin America, Trujillo remains in power 
through the support of the military establishment and the chillingly ef- 
ficient secret police. At present TrujiHo appears to command a good 


measure of loyalty from the well-paid and well-treated military caste. 
The Armed forces have been raised to a high level of technical efficiency 
and the officers' class does not seem dissatisfied at all. There is no record 
of any friction inside the armed forces within the last decade. However, 
although there does not seem to be any serious military contender for 
power, Trujillo, who fully understands what personal ambitions can be, 
keeps a close eye on officers. There is as much fear of reprisals in the 
military as in the civilian life. The big brass dreads the Foro Publico as 
much as the bureaucrats. 

Despite all this, Trujillo's dictatorship has by no means succeeded in 
removing all threat of opposition. This fact is in evidence in the occasional 
proclamations of the Generalissimo inviting those who disagree with his 
policies back into his fold. Gilded with the usual double-talk, of course, 
this problem has been expounded by Trujillo himself in several opportuni- 
ties. To one of his official biographers he once said: "In our case there 
have been enemies who have left here and made attacks from foreign 
shores. But no matter what they have done, if they want they can be use- 
ful. Several times I have stated that all of those who have been away, 
even if they have tried to discredit their country, may return with the 
greatest freedom if they are willing to work where they may be useful, so 
they may really do something for their country. The Government has 
stood ready to pay their expenses back to the Dominican Republic." 

High sounding pronouncements like this one have been made by the 
dozen throughout the last 27 years by the Benefactor. They do not im- 
press the Dominican people any longer. They have seen Trujillo break 
his own word so many times that they have learned to take his promises 
with a grain of salt. This is a marked trait that differentiates Trujillo from 
the classical Latin American dictators. The caudillos obey certain rules 
and one of their proudest boasts confirmed by people who have dealt 
with them is that they always keep their word. The Caribbean sea, how- 
ever, is crowded with corpses of credulous persons who believed Trujillo. 

Throughout the years of dictatorship there have been a number of 
plots. From the early thirties, when the students, emulating the example 
of their colleagues in other Latin American countries, began to plant 
bombs in the schools and public buildings of Santiago, to the late forties, 
when the last vestiges of organized underground opposition were finally 
wiped out ruthlessly, there were so many plots that an enumeration of 
them would fiU pages of this book. Yet, excellently planned as some of 
these abortive revolutionary attempts may have been, there was always to 
be found at least one trujillista agent infiltrated in the ranks of the con- 

At present, there is not an organized underground movement nor are 
there leaders to direct and encourage such a movement if it existed. Those 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 298 

who could actively take over the task are either exiled, imprisoned or 
under close surveillance. 

There is no way to communicate safely between groups even inside the 
country telephone lines, as a routine matter, are tapped; correspondence 
is either rifled or carefully scrutinized; and movements across provincial 
borders are thoroughly checked. Participants in any suspicious meeting, 
if reported by neighborhood informants, are questioned by the Secret 
Police. To possess a clandestine mimeograph machine is as dangerous as 
having a machinegun, and punishment for the latter offense is death sen- 
tence by the kangaroo courts. Under such conditions it is impossible to 
circulate political literature and even newspapers and periodicals coming 
into the country are impounded by the authorities. Newsweek once pointed 
out that "travelers arriving at Ciudad Trujillo are required to submit to 
a minute inspection of their documents, and all newspapers they bring in 
are confiscated." 

Yet there is the possibility that minuscule revolutionary cells, partic- 
ularly inside the students and workers groups, are working within the 
country. There are many people, including government officials and busi- 
nessmen, who at a grave risk dare to smuggle in and out of the country 
news and propaganda. Undoubtedly there is a freemasonry of dissatisfac- 
tion and an intense longing for a change, even among people high in of- 
ficial circles. This inarticulate mood of hostility, although deep, is too 
nebulous to be exposed and dispersed by the Secret Police; it is also 
too amorphous to constitute an imminent danger to the regime. In tribute 
to the trujillista Gestapo it must be said that whenever this sentiment of 
dissatisfaction tends to materialize in the form of a revolutionary plot, this 
is promptly detected by the Government sleuths. Literally speaking, all 
anti-Trujillo plots throughout the years of the Era have died aborning. 
Yet there is no honest American journalist who visits the Dominican 
Republic who does not come out with the latest story about an abortive 
attempt on Trujillo's life. Murray Kempton of the New York Post wrote, 
July, 1956, that "late in May (a group of conspirators) attacked and 
eliminated a 10~man garrison near Salcedo and thus provided their 
weapons cach6. They then wired and mined with explosives a church at 
Moca which was to have been dedicated by the Generalissimo in the 
presence of his entire family on June 9. And they had made provisions to 
wait in the house across the way for any Trujillo man who tried to escape 
from the ruins. An informer turned the conspirators in early in June, and 
the Moca church dedication went off safely as scheduled." Over a year 
later Milton Bracker of the New York Times wrote: "There was a con- 
firmed incident of discontent in the south coast sugar port of San Pedro 
de Macoris last spring. Agricultural workers defaced public buildings in 
such a way as to leave no doubt as to their feelings about their Bene- 


factor." He then added that although exiles in New York had charged that 
this led to reprisals of the most brutal and public sort "a high Trujillo 
aide, while confirming the incident, insists that what he called 'commu- 
nist' offenders benefited by due process of law." Knowing Trujillo's "due 
process of law" it is fair to assume that in this case both the exiles and 
the trujillista aide were right. 

It is therefore unlikely that any anti-Trujillo movement of magnitude 
will develop within the country in the foreseeable future. However, under- 
neath the outward signs of "satisfaction" with the present regime there are 
the root factors of discontent a steadily rising cost of living; marked 
inequalities between the favored few and the impoverished masses; and, 
for the intellectuals and other members of the upper middle class the gen- 
eral, pervading feeling of political stagnation. 

It would be the height of folly to expect the Trujillo empire to collapse 
of its own weight. Yet, if there is anything that cannot be discounted and 
that Trujillo ought to fear, it is assassination, not revolution. The current 
movement against dictators in Latin America has not passed as unnoticed 
as Trujillo would have wished in Santo Domingo. The Government ar- 
rested many people at the time of Fidel Castro's landing in Cuba to start 
a revolution against President Batista, A story going the rounds speaks 
volumes on what the people felt. 

An old lady boarded a crowded bus. No one offered her a seat. Finally, 
in exasperation, she said aloud: "Is there no man here who might offer 
me a seat?" A woman next to her replied: "Do you not know, my dear, 
there are no men here in Santo Domingo? If you want men, you must go 
to Cuba to find them." 

This embittered self-denying expression of Dominican humor brings one 
to a more serious question that is always posed by those interested in 
the Dominican situation. How is it that Dominicans and Cubans are so 
different in their respective attitudes toward dictatorship? 

The question is a complex one. To begin with, I do not believe that 
Cubans love freedom more than Dominicans. Both are freedom-loving 
peoples and whenever Cubans have fought for their own liberty there have 
been Dominicans at their side. The Dominican Mdximo G6mez accom- 
panied Jos6 Marti, the Cuban liberator, in the invasion that set off the 
last war for Cuban independence. A Dominican sailor was the captain of 
the yacht Gramma that took Fidel Castro and his small band of heroic 
and by now legendary band of revolutionists to launch the Sierra Maestra 
campaign in December 1956, On the other hand, there have been Cubans 
by the hundred, side by side with the Dominicans, whenever preparations 
have been made to start a revolution in the Dominican Republic. Fidel 
Castro himself is a veteran of the ill-fated attempt of Cayo Confites. 

Other factors that favor the Cubans account for the difference of atti* 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 300 

tudes. While Dominicans are a people totally disarmed since the days of 
the American occupation, Cubans are armed to the teeth. While there is 
not among the active opponents of the Trujillo regime a single man of 
wealth (Juan Rodriguez Garcia the only millionaire who ever fought 
against Trujillo is now a ruined man), there are scores of rich men in 
the ranks of the anti-Batista forces. While the well patroled coasts of the 
Dominican Republic are far off from any Continental point of embarka- 
tion, the longer, less protected Cuban shoreline is within small boat range 
of Mexico and the United States. While the Batista dictatorship is not 
consolidated yet, the Trujillo regime has been sitting tightly on the lid 
for the last 27 consecutive years. 

These are the contributing factors to the difference of attitudes. They 
explain why while Dominicans look passive, apathetic, uninterested, the 
Cubans are active, painstaking and very much interested in the sad plight 
of their country. 



strength and does not worry unduly about its internal opponents, it does 
not take chances with its enemies on foreign soil. It admittedly keeps a 
watchful eye upon the activities of the Dominican exiles, whose leaders 
and organizations are at all times under close surveillance by Dominican 
diplomats and secret police. The Dominican embassies abroad, the tru- 
jillista press agents, lobbyists and spies do whatever they can to hinder 
the activities of the emigre* groups, particularly those operating in the 
United States. At the recent federal trial in which John Joseph Frank, Wash- 
ington attorney and former FBI and Central Intelligence Agency agent, 
was charged with acting for the Dominican Republic in the United States 
without registering as a foreign agent, evidence was introduced to prove 
that Trujillo had paid fees of $20 an hour for the privilege of keeping 
track of the movements of opponents residing in American territory. 

Trujillo's fears are somewhat justified. Dominican exiles afford the only 
organized and sometimes articulate opposition to his strong arm rule. 
They are the only ones who keep the flame of resistance alive. 

An impartial survey of the exile political scene leads, however, to the 
conclusion that for the time being the Generalissimo does not have much 
to fear from his loosely organized external opposition. Thus far, the exiles 
have not been able to make any serious, direct contribution toward the over- 
throw of the trujillista state. Their two known attempts at bringing about 
the downfall of Trujillo through armed action the ill fated revolutionary 
invasions of Cayo Confites and Luperon failed tragically because of 


combined adverse factors not always under the revolutionists' control. At 
present, the exiles do not possess the armed strength to smash their way 
to power, nor have they found yet a specific political formula for winning 
power in any other way. 

Moreover, the years of undeserved misfortunes, martyrdom and untold 
sufferings in exile do not seem to have endowed the anti-Trujillo leaders 
with great political insight. 

By a weird twist of fate, exile seems to bring out the worst rather than 
the best in people. Thus, instead of concentrating on the common purpose 
of defeating the dictator, many Dominican exiles show a marked inclina- 
tion to enter into endless arguments with their colleagues, and, for that 
matter, with all the force they should reserve to combat the Generalissimo. 

Unquestionably, a fact bearing heavily upon the whole exile predica- 
ment is that although many exiles are men of intelligence and comprehen- 
sive vision and are imbued with genuine democratic convictions, an 
overwhelming feeling of frustration and loss of status increasingly gets 
hold of them as they immerse themselves deeper in the new and not always 
friendly environment in which they live. Considering themselves neglected 
and misunderstood, they become victims of petty squabbles and endless 
bickering over matters of small consequence. They do not expect the 
United States nor any other nation to land marines in the Dominican 
Republic to liberate the country, but they do expect to be treated as peo- 
ple who have made heavy personal sacrifices out of loyalty to democratic 
ideals. Instead, they hear from American high government officials and 
legislators constant words of praise for the Dominican dictatorship and 
they find that apart from a handful of responsible newspapers as well 
as democratic organizations and leaders no one seems to be particularly 
concerned because democracy is trampled upon in their native land. 

The aforementioned problems are aggravated by the fact that not all 
the exiles are convinced democratic idealists. Some of them fled their 
country after losing their juicy plums at the time of the downfall of the 
V&squez regime. Others are totally unknown within their own country, and 
being aware of this fact, they seem to be more interested in the passing 
glory they have mustered for themselves during their years of exile than 
in looking for permanent solutions to the Dominican tragedy. Still others 
regard themselves as a sort of a government-in-exile, or at least as the 
censors of a very exclusive club, with exclusive rights to interfere with 
and veto any project which is not agreeable to them. These latter people 
have fought tooth and nail to acquire positions which they will seek to 
retain on the great day when they return to their homeland riding the 
victory chariot. They feel offended whenever someone suggests that a 
new generation which no longer knows them has grown up in the Domini- 
can Republic. Some of these people believe they will return to the year 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 302 

1931, others to 1937, still others to 1947. Not many seem prepared to go 
back to the post-Trujillo Dominican Republic. 

The point is academic because it will most likely be those who have lived 
and suffered these many years under the brutal yoke of "the Big One" who 
will be better equipped to direct the country's political future than the men in 
Havana, New York City and San Juan, Puerto Rico. 

Those who left the country in the early Thirties (the clean ones, the 
pure who did not play ball with Trujillo) are scornful of all the others who 
turned to exile later. Those who broke in the middle Thirties feel superior 
to those who did not break until the days of Cayo Confites. These in 
turn look down on the later disillusioned exiles. Since everyone who comes 
out of the Dominican Republic already has the stigma of collaboration, 
there is a marked tendency among the pseudo-aristocracy of the exile world 
to reject any newcomer on the ground of his recent connections with the 
dictatorship. This position is not only devoid of political realism, but 
it is also self-defeating. These people forget that aside from a few of the 
leaders of the first generation of refugees men like Dr. Angel Morales, 
Dr. Miguel A. Pardo and Dr. Guaroa Velazquez a large proportion of 
the exile leadership is made up of former collaborators of the regime. 

The customary lofty rejection of the newly arrived serves Trujillo's 
interests. First, it lends support to the oft-repeated trujillista contention 
that exiledom is a big industry a monopoly in fact- exploited for the 
benefit of a few who have made a profitable career out of it. 

Second, it transplants to the exile groups the practical trujillista strat- 
egy of sowing dissension and playing off one political group or individual 
against another in an endless contention. 

Third, since people who make the grave decision to leave behind family, 
home, former friends and sometimes wealth and social position, to plunge 
into the uncertainties of exile life at least expect to find a spirit of demo- 
cratic solidarity on the other side, this habit of according hostile receptions 
to those who break with Trujillo, cuts down to a minimum the number 
of defections. 

The largest and probably the most active colonies of anti-TrujiHo 
Dominicans are centered at present in New York City and San Juan, Puerto 
Rico. The Puerto Ricans are especially sympathetic hosts to the hundreds 
of Dominicans and Cubans who have gathered in their island. According 
to The Nation, "the Puerto Ricans, proud of their own democracy, are 
pleased to have their island serve as a port in the extended dictatorial 
storms, and the exiles find much popular support here, as well as official 

New York City, the most liberal city in the world, lends much support 
to the refugees of tyrannical regimes. There Dominican exiles find a sym- 
pathetic press and a group of fine liberals such as Norman Thomas, the 


Socialist leader, Miss Frances Grant, Secretary General of the Inter Amer- 
ican Association for Democracy and Freedom, Roger Baldwin, of the 
American Civil Liberties Union, Louise Crane, publisher of Iberica, and 
others who are always ready to lend their support to a just cause. 

Since a recent rapprochement between the regimes of Fulgencio Batista, 
in Cuba, and Trujillo, the activities of the large colony of Dominican 
exiles living in Cuba have been severely curtailed. The formerly vocal 
and quite active groups that had found haven and a sympathetic audience 
in Cuba are almost silent and their members live in constant fear of the 
long arm of the Benefactor. 

Venezuela, a country that from 1945 to 1948 was under the protection 
of the left of center regimes of Romulo Betancourt and Romulo Gallegos, 
a stage for the launching of much anti-Trujillo propaganda, was long closed 
as a base of operations for Dominican exiles, for reasons much like those 
prevailing in Cuba. In Caracas and other Venezuelan cities live a group of 
anti-Trujillo emigres of considerable economic power. Yet, it was under- 
stood that few of the Dominicans settled there would risk either their 
liberty or their comfortable livelihoods to defy the close alliance which for 
years existed between Perez Jimenez and Trujillo. 

Mexico had been until recently one of the most secure places of refuge 
for those fleeing from Trujillo's terror. Finally, Trujillo's lethal arm 
reached into that country and since the frustrated attempt on the life of 
the exile leader Tancredo Martinez Garcia, terror has been rampant. The 
Ciudad de Mexico newspaper La Prensa recently reported that Domini- 
cans in M6xico are living "in fear that the knife or pistol of a mercenary 
may end their lives.'* The same paper asserted that the exiles are "defense- 
less against the long arm of the Trujillo regime." 

In a word, the activities of the Dominican exile colonies in Latin 
America are at the mercy of prevailing political winds. If the Government 
of the country where they are established is democratically inclined the 
exiles prosper and sometimes even get active financial support from their 
sympathizers. Otherwise they have to shut up and pray for a change before 
Trujillo gets them. 

The activities of the exile organizations are rather deceptive* There are 
a few groups which may be considered more or less permanent 

The oldest, and one of the most active throughout the years, is the 
Partido Revolucionario Dominicano. Founded in the early Forties this 
party has its headquarters in Havana, It has branches in Venezuela, Mexico, 
Puerto Rico and New York City. The PRD main source of strength is to 
be found in middle class groups, but it also seeks support among the 
organized workers and peasants. Its political program specifies lucidly a 
set of principles aimed at the creation of a democratic order in the Do* 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 304 

minican Republic. The PRD publishes a periodical Quisqueya Libre as 
well as a monthly bulletin which is edited by its New York section. 

Among the central figures of the PRD are Juan Bosch, a vigorous in- 
tellectual and fiction writer, who has played a leading role in the shaping 
of the exile movement; Angel Miolan, a dedicated fighter against the re- 
gime since his student days in Santiago and at present the secretary gen- 
eral of the organization; Alexis Liz and Buenaventura Sanchez, two 
politicians of the pre-Trujillo days. The New York Section, which is reg- 
istered with the Justice Department as a foreign agent, is under the direc- 
tion of Nicolas Silfa, a steadfast and articulate antitrujillista, who has 
become one of the pet hatreds of the Benefactor. 

The PRD has been particularly active since the disappearance of Jesus 
de Galfndez; it organizes picket lines, political rallies and memorial meet- 
ings. Its leaders were among the first to charge the Trujillo regime as 
responsible for the kidnapping and murder of the Spanish professor. In 
their righteous indignation over the political crime they made a mistake 
when, obviously misled by a trujillista agent provocateur, Nicolas Silfa 
charged publicly that Dr. Galindez had been thrown alive into one of the 
furnaces of the Dominican freighter Fundacidn. After the ship had been 
searched in vain for four hours by the New York police, informed sources 
suggested that Silfa might have received his information from people in- 
terested in. sidetracking the investigations. 

In 1956, Silfa, Bosch and Miolan traveled to Europe to attend a meet- 
ing of the executive committee of the International Confederation of Free 
Trade Unions. As a result of their pleading, then strongly backed by the 
organized Cuban workers headed by Senator Eusebio Mujal, the LC.F.T.IL 
executive committee adopted a resolution accusing the Trujillo dictator- 
ship of suppressing the free labor movement and calling for consultation 
with labor regional organizations on a possible boycott of the Dominican 
Republic. The resolution also accused the Trujillo regime of failure to 
enact adequate social legislation (it would have been more accurate had 
it said "failure to enforce")? leniency toward Communism, a monopolist 
position in many fields of industry, and attempting to interfere in the for- 
eign policies of other countries, particularly Cuba. 

The committee asked aU its affiliates and international trade secretaries 
to join a world-wide campaign to protest the "policy of terror, crime and 
persecution pursued by the Trujillo regime, as well as against its intrigues 
and its murderous attacks on the foes of the regime." 

Batista and Trujillo were then engaged in one of those political feuds 
that occasionally stir the waters of the Caribbean Sea. As one of Batista's 
stooges and head of the CTC (Confederation of Cuban Workers), Mujal 
gave open support to the threatened boycott, which for a time looked as 
if it had a chance to be enforced. Yet, a few months later, Trujillo's efforts 


to blackmail Batista into political submission were crowned with success 
and the latter was received in "The Chiefs" fold. Mujal then lost all in- 
terest in restoring democratic freedoms for the Dominican workers, and 
thereupon the boycott idea was promptly forgotten. 

Although the PRD is moderate and its activities are marked out by ad- 
vocacy of a democratic program, minimum social legislation and a tem- 
perate attitude toward the Dominican Church, some of its main battles 
have been against the clergy. In September, 1957, Silfa formally filed a 
complaint with the Pope against what he called the "political activity" of 
the Dominican Archbishop Monsignor Ricardo Pittini. The complaint was 
based, Silfa said, on a statement in which Archbishop Pittini defended the 
Trujillo regime in terms "exceedingly emphatic" and in "utter disregard 
of the truth." 

Then a Solemn Mass scheduled to be celebrated at St. Patrick's Cathe- 
dral on November 9, 1957, for the "health and welfare" of Dominican 
workers-in-exile and their families, was canceled on the ground that its 
sponsors were using it for political purposes. The sponsors were the Do- 
minican Democratic Workers in Exile, whose secretary general is Nicolas 
Silfa, of the PRD. 

Silfa insisted that the Mass was in no way a political matter, and had 
been requested to invoke divine blessing for the health and welfare of 
Dominican workers. Concerning the cancellation, Rev. Bernard P. Dona- 
chie, a member of St. Patrick's Cathedral staff, said that he had entered 
upon an understanding with Silfa that the Mass would not be used for 
political purposes. "When it came to my attention that the scheduled 
Mass was being so used, I felt I had no choice but to cancel it." 

In a letter to Cardinal Spellman, Silfa expressed his "shocking disbelief 
at the action" and denied charges of political intention on his part. He 
then told Cardinal Spellman that he had been informed that a request for 
a Mass would have to be made through the offices of the Consul General 
of the Dominican Republic in New York, and added: "This is quite im- 
possible. To us this is equivalent to asking Catholic Hungarian freedom 
fighters to place their request with the Communist Hungarian Consul 
General." To the press Silfa charged that Dominican Republic consular 
officials had told Father Donachie that the sponsoring group was "Com- 
munist." He denied that it was. 

There can be no doubt that among the distinct political forces whose 
voice is now heard in the forum of Dominican opposition one of the most 
effective is Vanguardia Revolucionaria Dominicana. To the degree that it 
is possible to assess the relative strength of the exile groups, it appears 
that VRD, though one of the newest and perhaps smallest, is also one of 
the most influential. Since its founding in 1956 this party has rallied 
around its banner a representative leadership from professional and in- 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 306 

tellectual groups doctors, lawyers, writers, professors and former diplo- 
mats. Yet, though it has an essentially burgeois center of gravity it dis 
claims all pretences of being an "elite party" and does not discourage 
admission into its ranks of members of the working and peasant classes, 
who form the hard core of the Dominican population in exile. 

Perhaps because its leadership has been better trained and politically 
more mature than that of the majority of the other exile groups, VRD has 
often seemed to think more clearly and to act with surer purpose. They 
have carefully avoided issues which could easily divide the opposition, 
while maintaining their own clear-cut political identity. There is, however, 
a perilous tendency to feud with the PRD, which should be avoided. 

The top leadership of Vanguardia is concentrated in Puerto Rico, 
though it has a branch in New York City and a representative in Mexico 
City, in charge of coordinating the publication of the official organ of the 
Party. Its President is Dr. Miguel A. Pardo, one of the long-time anti- 
Trujillo fighters, with a clean and honorable record of struggle for the 
freedom of the Dominican people. A measure of the importance Trujillo 
gives to VRD is that Dr. Pardo and other leaders of the Party have been 
subject to a domestic press and radio campaign of smear and vilification, 
an honor the Benefactor only accords to people with established prestige 
inside the country, since he is not interested in building up the local repu- 
tation of unknown exile leaders. 

Secretary General of VRD is Horacio J. Ornes, one of the youngest 
veterans of the exile movement. Ornes founded the widely-publicized and 
now dictator-wielded Caribbean Legion when he commanded part of the 
rebel forces in the Costa Rican civil war launched in 1948 by current 
President Jose Rgueres to rout the Red-dominated regime then entrenched 
in the Central American nation. Ornes also participated in the abortive 
attempt of Cayo Confites, being sentenced in absentia for its participation 
to thirty years in jail. In June, 1949, he commanded the airborne invasion 
of Dominican territory known as the attempt of Luperon. Captured with 
a group of his fellow-invaders, all were sentenced to 30 years at hard 
labor after a mock public trial. As a result of an amnesty passed by the 
Trujillo Congress on February 20, 1950, Ornes and his companions were 
freed and took anew the road to exile, (Recently Trujillo threatened to 
ask Ornes's extradition for alleged violation of the terms of the amnesty. 
Ornes challenged Trujillo to start a suit in a free American court.) 

The Executive Committee of VRD is made up of three distinguished 
professionals, Drs. J. Edmundo Taveras and Felix Garcia Carrasco, two 
prominent physicians established in Puerto Rico with a large practice, 
and Dr. Ricardo Roques Martinez, who earned his spurs in the under- 
ground fight against the Benefactor inside his own police-ridden domain. 
Roques also acts as head of the New York section of the party. Other 


leaders of the party are former University professors like Dr. Moises de 
Soto; young writers like Oscar Torres, solid businessmen like Luis Ortiz 
Arzeno and labor leaders like Herman Voigt. 

Since its inception the strength and prestige of VRD have grown swiftly. 
One revealing index of the amount of activity of this movement has been 
the quality and volume of its propaganda. The editorial merit of its pub- 
lications is conspicuously superior to the average of exile propaganda; 
more newsworthy, more persuasive and generally better printed and illus- 
trated. The main publicity organ is a magazine called VRD. 

VRD was the first exile organization to denounce publicly, in a letter 
to Senator Wayne Morse (D.-Ore.), the link between the murder of the 
young American flyer Gerald Lester Murphy, inside the Dominican Re- 
public, and the kidnapping of Professor Jesus de Galindez. 

On August 16, 1957, VRD made public in New York a letter to At- 
torney General Herbert Brownell, Jr., protesting "the actual intervention 
of the Trujillo regime in the lawful processes of the judicial institutions of 
the United States." The letter questioned the legality of a private trujillista 
investigation of the Galindez affair and demanded the United States notify 
Generalissimo Trujillo that his "incriminated regime will not be allowed 
to intervene in the domestic affairs of the United States" and that the 
Galindez investigation was the "exclusive competence" of American judi- 
cial authorities. 

Also with headquarters in Puerto Rico is the Partido Populista Domini- 
cano, one of the most active, publicity-wise speaking, of the exiles groups. 
Leader of this organization that claims a large membership is Francisco 
Javier Guilliani. 

The PPD leads a weekly picket line outside the Dominican Consulate 
General in San Juan, Puerto Rico, makes broadcasts to the Dominican 
Republic and conducts a vigorous publicity campaign against Trujillo. In 
a recent statement to the Nation it was stated that the PPD's aim "is not 
so much to draw people out of the Dominican Republic, but to establish 
a sympathetic following within it for his party and its stated principles of 
democratic politics." 

The magazine then added: "The Populist Party has never attempted 
any military attack on Trujillo's regime, and they say that they are plan- 
ning none. Guilliani has little hope of an uprising within the tight military 
control that Trujillo has imposed upon his country with the help of U.S. 
arms aid." 

As quoted by the Nation Guilliani will just wait till Trujillo dies. 
"Then we win return, and with the help of our followers inside the coun- 
try, set up a democratic government and democratic elections before an- 
other dictatorship starts." 

At present the Communists are perhaps the least active of the groups of 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 308 

Dominican exiles. Still licking the wounds suffered during their ill-fated 
"legal" adventure in the Dominican Republic during 1946-1947, the Reds 
concentrated first in Guatemala and, after the victorious revolution of the 
late Col. Carlos Castillo Armas, in Mexico. There they edit a monthly 
organ Vanguardia and make occasional pronouncements against Trujillo 
and American imperialism. They are taking it easy, however. They know 
they have got to be patient and patience is a commodity they can well 
afford. First, they know that with their prestige shattered as a result of 
their past dealings with the Trujillo regime they will have to wait a long 
time before reasserting themselves in the eyes of the sceptical Dominican 
people. Second, while the present international balance of power prevails 
they do not have a chance of taking power in such a strategic country as 
the Dominican Republic. 

As a consequence of an effort to unify the different exile groups a few 
popular front style organizations emerged a few years back in New York, 
San Juan, Havana and Mexico. Many democratic exiles raised their eye- 
brows, suspecting a Communist-inspired movement. Everyone, however, 
pointed out that the fronts were not dominated by the Communists and 
no proofs have been presented otherwise. 

The Dominican opposition in exile still derives its main source of 
strength, despite the increasing importance of the political parties, from 
the prestige of a handful of individual figures who command a great deal 
of respect both among fellow-emigres and foreign political and intellectual 
leaders. Among these outstanding exiles are Juan Rodriguez Garcia, Dr. 
Angel Morales, Dr. Horacio Vicioso, Dr. Guaroa Velazquez, Dr. Jos6 
Antonio BoniUa Atiles, Dr. Miguel A. Pardo, Juan Bosch and others. 


the Trujillo regime, the Basque scholar Dr. Jesus de Galindez, lecturer in 
Spanish and Government at Columbia University, disappeared from his 
New York home at 30 Fifth Avenue. From the moment he vanished, Dr. 
de Galindez posed for American authorities a riddle surrounded by the 
cloak-and-dagger aura of international intrigue; a web of murder and law- 
lessness protected by diplomatic immunity and the complicity of a foreign 
government which evolved into the most noted cause celebre of the present. 

Dr. de Galindez' disappearance did not come as a complete surprise. 
His friends, and the police, knew that his life was in danger. He had been 
threatened by anonymous callers. 

Jestis de Galindez, 42, had been a resident of New York City since 
early 1946. A hard-working, affable, sociable intellectual, de Galindez 
had finally achieved a doctorate at Columbia. Born in Madrid, de Galin- 
dez considered himself nevertheless a citizen of the short-lived autonomous 
Basque republic, abolished by Franco in 1937. 

De GaMndez had fought the Spanish Civil War on the loyalist side. He 
paid the price of defeat in exile, first to France, then, from November 
1939 to January 1946, in the Dominican Republic. There he took a teach- 
ing job at the School of Diplomatic Law attached to the Dominican For- 
eign Office (where one of Trujillo's sons, Rafael, Jr., was his pupil). 
Later he became Legal Adviser to the Labor Department. 

While serving in the Labor Department, de Galindez first incurred Tru- 
jillo's wrath. As a secretary of the minimum wage commission, the young 
lawyer helped to settle during December 1945 and January 1946 a series 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 310 

of labor strikes in the still American-owned sugar industry, in a manner 
regarded as too favorable to labor. Charged with a pro-labor slant, de 
Galindez became a marked man. There is also the possibility, not estab- 
lished clearly, that de Galindez was involved in some degree in the activ- 
ities of the democratic underground. 

Tipped off by friends, Galindez decided to leave the Dominican en- 
vironment; through friends in the United States he got a visa to come to 
New York City where he settled. 

Trujillo's absolute one-man rule became the consuming interest of 
Galindez. "In time," recalled Professor Frank Tannenbaum of Columbia 
University, "de Galindez came to resemble nothing so much as a walking 
one-man intelligence bureau. He knew more about Trujillo than anyone 
else in the whole wide world." 

De Galindez did not forget the Dominican Republic. He became active 
in three different sectors of Manhattan: among the exiled Spaniards, the 
large Latin American colony, and the liberal, anti-Communist New York 
intellectuals. He was also appointed official representative of the Basque 
Government in exile, whose seat is in Paris. 

He was a founder and sometime President of the Ibero-American Poets 
and Writers Guild. He became a director of the International League for 
the Rights of Man, a United Nations consultant agency, and a member of 
the United States Committee of the Inter American Association for 
Democracy and Freedom. He also acted as a consultant for American 
law firms on complicated issues of international law. He found time to 
write a book on Latin American history and many scorching attacks on 
Trujillo in magazine and newspaper articles and pamphlets published in 
the United States, Mexico, Cuba, and other Latin American countries. 

"He was a scholar well respected by his teaching colleagues and held in 
warm affection and regard as well by his students," wrote Grayson Kirk, 
President of Columbia University, to the New York Times. 

In his book-cluttered, file-bulging apartment, Galindez patiently assem- 
bled all the known facts about Trujillo. Most of the research went toward 
a 750-page damaging critical analysis of the Dominican dictatorship, en- 
titled The Era of Trujillo, which he submitted for his PhD, degree. De 
Galindez also worked on a scathing novel about the Dominican strongman. 

As his doctoral thesis neared completion, GaMndez received numerous 
threats, which he reported to friends and the FBI. "He was apprehensive," 
said a fellow professor, "but he didn't let the threats depress Mm, He 
didn't look behind his back." 

De Galindez completed his damaging indictment of Trujillo's regime, 
submitted it to Columbia's history department (he discussed it on Feb- 
ruary 27, 1957, Dominican Independence Day) and went ahead with 
plans for publication. 


He took a number of precautions. As he slowly worked over the manu- 
script, writing first in Spanish and then making a literal translation into 
English for editorial polishing by American friends, he deposited a copy, 
chapter by chapter, with a friend. When the work was finished he gath- 
ered all the copies. He then submitted the English version to the Univer- 
sity, but after the thesis had been accepted by Columbia all copies were 
returned to him for minor corrections. He disappeared before the manu- 
script could be returned to the University. 

Nevertheless, before he vanished he put into the hands of a Chilean 
friend, Alfonso Naranjo, a complete copy of the Spanish typescript, to take 
to Chile for safekeeping. 

Naranjo hid the manuscript and after de Galindez' disappearance made 
arrangements for publication by Editorial del Pacifico of Santiago, Chile. 
De Galindez himself put an English copy in the hands of the New York 
University Press, but did not sign a contract for its publication, an over- 
sight that has prevented, thus far, publishing of the complete thesis. 

De Galindez also reinforced the locks of his apartment. This he did 
after the mysterious visit to the building of a man later identified as one 
of the most sinister operatives of the trujillista espionage network. This 
man, whose right name may never be known, is famous in the exile world 
by his nickname of El Cojo, the Lame One. 

Jestis Martinez Jara (one of his many names) cut a bizarre figure. A 
short, thin, leathery, middle-aged man, he walked with a limp and had a 
cast in one eye. Wherever he went, crime was scheduled. American investi- 
gative agencies have collected as many as 75 aliases by which he has been 

A Spanish Republican refugee himself (although of another vintage), 
El Cojo had been a loyalist stool pigeon during the Spanish Civil War. 
He went into exile and found refuge in Cuba, Mexico, Colombia, Costa 
Rica, Jamaica and Puerto Rico. His stay in each was short because of his 
habit of f ailing out with the authorities over a variety of accomplishments 
ranging from counterfeiting of currency to illegal practice of medicine. 

Sometime in 1954 he arrived in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, penniless and 
without a passport. Promptly picked up by the Haitian police, he landed 
in jail. Shortly afterwards the Haitian authorities also picked up a group 
of Dominicans fleeing from the trujillista furies, who were waiting for the 
disposal of extradition procedures initiated by the Dominican government. 
The Trujillo secret police needed an inmate to keep a watchful eye on the 
refugees; they found their man in El Co/a, 

Apparently he did a good job, because after the men were set free by 
a Haitian court, which refused to extradite, El Cojo too was freed, After 
that the Dominican ambassador, Luis Logrono Cohen, personally ar- 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 312 

ranged Ms release. He was given a safe conduct and sent to Ciudad Trajillo, 
where he went to work for the secret police of the Benefactor. 

El Cojo was assigned the mission of infiltrating exile groups in Mexico, 
Cuba and Puerto Rico. For a time he was successful, but after the killing 
in 1955 of the Dominican oppositionist Manuel J. ("Pipi") Hernandez, 
in Havana, the exiles began to suspect him. 

In fall 1955, El Cojo began to drift toward the American mainland. On 
November 22, El Cojo called on Dr. de Galindez. The latter was startled 
when the switchboard operator told him that a stranger wanted to come 
up to his apartment. The professor asked the operator to hold the stranger 
and went down to meet him. The visitor introduced himself as Manuel 
Hernandez, merchant seaman from Puerto Rico, and he pressed to see 
Dr. de Galindez "privately" about a "confidential matter." 

The man spoke with an accent which was not Puerto Rican. Of this in- 
terview there is a fairly good record. Andrew St. George, a writer who has 
researched the de Galindez case, described the visit in an article for 
Argosy in words that are exactly those de Galindez used to recount it to 
the author of this book. 

St. George wrote: "He (de Galindez) rejected the stranger's request 
for a chat in a 'quiet place* and insisted that he state the purpose of his 
visit on the spot. 

"The man who called himself Hernandez spoke reluctantly and myste- 
riously. He made veiled references to a connection with the Dominican 
Republic and under the professor's prodding he finally came out with it. 
He had access to some secret Dominican papers, revealing among other 
things, the identity of Trujillo's confidential agents in the United States. 

"By this time, Dr. Galindez was thoroughly skeptical. In fact, he 
scented danger. He told the stranger abruptly that he was not interested 
in any piece of his proposition and rang for the elevator. 

"The odd caller, however, refused to give up. Speaking rapidly, he ad- 
mitted that Dr. Galindez had reason for distrusting him; that his name was 
actually not really Hernandez, but Veldzquez, and that he had not told the 
whole truth. But the secret documents, said Hernandez- Velazquez excit- 
edly those were real. 

"The disturbing scene ended with the arrival of the elevator. Galindez 
dismissed the stranger by slamming the door in his face." 

De Galindez also described El Cojo's visit in a letter he wrote to Dr. 
Angel Morales, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It seems that El Cojo went to 
see Galindez twice more. Of later visits there is not a clear record. 

Then, on Monday, March 12, 1956, at twenty minutes past nine in 
the evening, Dr. de Galindez finished his lecture in Columbia's Fayer- 
weather Hall and left with two students, a young man and jpxL With them 


he walked for about two blocks. When the man left he accepted a lift from 
the girl, who lived on East 57th Street. She volunteered to drop him at 
the subway entrance, corner of 57th and Eighth Avenue. 

The girl recalls that riding downtown, de Galindez talked of the forth- 
coming Pan American Day parade on April 19 (the first of its kind in 
New York City) in whose preparation he was taking a leading part. "He 
was enthusiastic; neither depressed nor frightened," said the girl. 

On this corner de Galindez left the car, waved to his pupil, and ducked 
into the downtown subway entrance. No friend has seen de Galindez, alive 
or dead, since. 

No one knows whether he met with criminal attack before reaching the 
subway platform, while in the station after leaving the subway, upon reach- 
ing home or whether he was lured out later that night by a phone call from 
someone he trusted. The general belief is that he reached his apartment. 
The girl student later identified the overcoat found there as the one he had 
been wearing when she left him at the subway entrance. Moreover, the 
bed was unmade, although people who knew de Galindez well asserted 
that he was a sloppy housekeeper and may not have slept there that night. 
On the bed the police found the Monday evening papers, but none of 
Tuesday morning. It may be that an abductor was waiting at the apart- 
ment, but the possibility is remote since the police found no sign of a 
struggle. Even his papers were seemingly in order, though a brown brief- 
case, which was said to be always full of "confidential" papers, was found 
open and empty in the apartment. 

De Galindez had many friends in New York and a number called him 
in the next few days, but almost a week was lost before the police were 
called in. De Galindez had only one other class at Columbia that week; 
his failure to show up was no cause of alarm. Friends who telephoned 
assumed he was out. Finally, Mr. Tomds Santana, one of the organizers of 
the Pan American parade, after a few unsuccessful calls, sounded the 
alarm. Instead of calling the police Santana got in touch with one of the 
Spanish language newspapers, El Diario de Nueva York, and talked with 
its editor, Stanley Ross. 

At last the police were notified by Ross, who before going to the au- 
thorities paid a visit to de Galindez* apartment in the company of a girl 
named Lydia Miranda. They were assured by the help that they had seen 
the professor, or thought they had, on Wednesday. The superintendent 
opened the apartment and they entered, but discovered nothing to alarm 
them. All the same the police were notified. 

At this point a very strange thing happened. Ross failed to print the 
story promptly in his newspaper, thus losing the scoop of the year. It 
was the other Spanish daily, La Prensa, which broke the news in its Sun- 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 314 

day edition. Ross later argued that the police had requested withholding 
publication until further word from them. La Prensa denied there was 
such a request. 

De Galindez became case #5254 in the files of New York's Missing 
Persons Bureau. 

The police searched de Galindez 9 apartment at least forty times. No 
evidence of violence was ever found, nor anything that could lead to the 
apprehension of anyone. The police found in one filing cabinet carefully 
dated cards listing the individuals Galindez had met over the years, but 
none of these names provided a clue. In another file they found a note, 
dated October 4, 1952 (two days after a Dominican exile, Andres 
Requena, had been shot to death in a lower Manhattan tenement) ad- 
dressed "to the police." It said: "In case anything would happen to me, I 
have serious reasons to believe that my aggressors could be agents from 
. . ." Police have declined to reveal the remainder but let it be known 
Galindez meant the Dominican Republic. 

Also detectives found the draft of a will, unsigned and not notarized, 
directing that in event of his death any assets be used to publish his papers 
concerning the Dominican Republic, that his other documents be given 
to the Basque Government in Spain and his body taken back to his native 
Basque country for burial. 

The respected socialist leader Norman Thomas and other leaders of 
American civic groups pointed the finger of suspicion at the Generalissimo. 
Dominican officials vehemently denied any responsibility for the disap- 

An important group of more than a dozen American, Spanish-American 
and Inter-American organizations immediately appealed to the United 
States Attorney General Herbert Brownell for an all-out FBI investigation. 
The highly influential Inter-American Press Association asked President 
Eisenhower to give personal consideration to the disappearance and to 
order an investigation by the FBI. The American Foreign Law Associa- 
tion asked for an intensive investigation. So did many individuals. 

For the police time was vital; already too much had been lost, A swarm 
of detectives was thrown into one of the most intensive man hunts in New 
York police history, while the press made a clamot . Two weeks after the 
disappearance Manuel G. Graymore, an assistant district attorney for 
New York City who had been assigned to the case, admitted that all the 
evidence, scant though it was, pointed to kidnapping and murder by Do- 
minican agents for political reasons. To the New York Post Graymore 
said: "We have conducted a painstaking search for any other possible 
motive and there is none." Under pressure from the Dominican Informa- 
tion Center and Dominican consular and diplomatic officials, the District 
Attorney's Office disavowed Graymore a few days later. 


From the beginning, the investigation ran into blind alleys. There was 
the presence of two Dominican ships in New York harbor the night of 
March 12 the Fundacion and the Angelita. One, the Angelita, went to 
sea the same night, and then executed a curious maneuver. After five hours 
the ship reversed its course and returned to port. The captain blandly 
claimed engine trouble. A broken pinion was available as proof. The other 
sailed for the Dominican Republic a few days later. 

"We could not question the captain," Graymore said, "because the 
ship was on the high seas at the time and beyond our jurisdiction." The 
ominous implications were that de Galindez could have been dumped 
overboard on the Angelita's five-hour trip to sea, or smuggled back to the 
Dominican Republic. 

Late in May the mystery of the missing man took a singularly ugly turn. 
Nicolas Silfa, New York representative of the Dominican Revolutionary 
Party, said he had learned from the Dominican "underground" that Dr. 
de Galindez had been thrown alive into the furnace of the Dominican 
freighter Fundacion, while the ship was in New York harbor on or about 
March 13. Dominican officials called this theory "fantastic." There were 
anti-Trujillo demonstrations in front of the Madison Avenue office of 
Franklin D, Roosevelt, Jr., then a legal representative of the Dominican 

Next time the Fundacion docked in New York the police went aboard, 
searched the ship and questioned the crew. They found no evidence that 
a man might have been murdered. The mystery was as deep as ever. It 
took some time to realize that the Dominican government was very much 
interested in planting that story and calling attention to the ships in order 
to sidetrack the investigation. 

At the beginning the police discovered what they thought was a "key 
witness." El Cojo had been seen in Miami a few days before Galindez' 
disappearance and he was talking freely. To a young Cuban salesman 
named Orestes Portales y Carrasco, he confided that he was in the United 
States on a mission from the Benefactor himself. He revealed the nature 
of the assignment the job was to hire someone willing to do away with 
a couple of Trujillo's enemies in New York. One happened to be a teacher 
named Jestis de Galindez. 

Portales saw a lot of El Cojo; every time the man would bring up in 
conversation the nature of his mission. One day he appeared at the hang- 
out where Cuban and other Latin exiles met and told Portales that the 
FBI was after him. 

According to Portales, the Spaniard made a hurried phone call to the 
Dominican Consulate, Then he showed a telegram he had received that 
same day (Portales recalls it was March 1) from Ciudad Trujillo which 
read: "Leave mission in abeyance. Return immediately," 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 316 

The last time Portales saw El Cojo was when he flung himself into the 
back seat of a green sedan that had pulled up at the curb in front of the 
caf6 where they were. It appears that El Cojo left Miami the same day, 
by way of New Orleans and with the help of the Dominican consulates in 
both places, for the Dominican Republic and has never been heard of or 
seen since. 

During his last visit to the United States El Cojo was seen escorting a 
petite redhead, whom he introduced as his wife. The girl was not his wife 
but his mistress, Ana Gloria Viera. No one knows how Miss Viera (who 
many people say was Puerto Rican and therefore an American citizen) 
went back to the Dominican Republic. One day, however, in August, 
1956, the body of Ana Gloria was found mangled in a wrecked automo- 
bile. Since she was alone in the car the presumption is that she was driving 
when the "accident" occurred. The only trouble, wrote Herbert Matthews 
in the New York Times, was that people who knew her said she had never 
learned to drive a car. 

The conviction grew that El Cojo's presence in Miami and all his talk 
about hiring killers served one purpose El Cojo was a "finger man" all 
right but this time he had been sent as a decoy. He had been purposely 
sent south to seek out a "trigger man," while the real master minds of 
the kidnapping were doing the actual work up north. With his talk and 
his suspicious movements he would contribute to making a false trail. 
And so the pieces of the puzzle multiplied, and the file on the paradoxes 
called the Galindez case lengthened. 

The case provoked so much interest and concern that the subject was 
brought up at two of President Eisenhower's press conferences. After say- 
ing the first time that he knew nothing about the matter, the President on 
May 9, 1956, replied: "The Attorney General went after the case as 
quickly as it arose, went into New York City. The F.B.L is standing by 
on the first intimation that it has a right to step in. The city police of New 
York have it in hand. As far as the case stands now, it is a pure case of 
disappearance and not a case where the F.B.I, has any right to step in." 

The Galindez affair touched off a feud between groups of anti-Trujillo 
Dominicans in New York and the colony of Dominicans who, through love 
or fear, remain loyal to the Trujillo regime. Picket lines were set up by the 
exile groups in front of the Dominican consulate in New York. On the 
other hand, trujillistas threw eggs at the exile demonstrators, picketed 
newspapers, magazines and even Columbia University, and printed leaflets 
and pamphlets vilifying de Galindez and his defenders. 

On June 5, 1956, Dr. Jestis de Galindez received a degree of Doctor 
of Philosophy in absentia at Columbia. The degree was awarded for work 
in political science that included writing his The Era of Trujillo thesis. 
Dean Jacques Barzun of the Graduate Faculties cited "the name of our 


colleague, Jesus de Galmdez, whose unexplained absence for three months 
we all lament." A spokesman for the university stated that this unprece- 
dented procedure was designed as an "expression of interest and concern." 

It was clear that the police authorities were trying to do thek best, but 
hemispheric public opinion was disturbed. Much of the criticism was di- 
rected at the State Department, which, many thought, was over friendly 
with the dictator. 

Marquis Childs in a column in the New York Post on June 6, 1956, 
asserted that "in the nearly three months that have elapsed since Dr. 
Galindez' disappearance not a single government agency in Washington, 
whether in the executive or Congressional branch, has made any move 
to try to discover whether he has, in fact, been the victim of the espionage 
system of a foreign power operating with complete disregard for American 
law and the tradition of American haven for refugees from oppression." 

On September 12, 1956, Norman Thomas accused the Federal Govern- 
ment of adopting a hands-off policy because "any thorough investigation 
might distress Generalissimo Rafael L. Trujillo of the Dominican Re- 
public and have repercussions in the United Nations." 

Governor Luis Munoz Marin, of Puerto Rico, also had strong words to 
say. "Suspicion is very strong and widespread in Latin America that a 
certain dictatorial government has in fact exercised the right of extra- 
territorial execution of its opponents within the United States and with 
apparent immunity." 

Only the Dominican Republic seemed unaffected. Aside from a few 
newspaper articles charging de Galindez with all the crimes on the statute 
books, the case did not seem to exist for the Dominican people. "The great 
paradox about the Galindez case in this dictatorial republic is that 
'everybody' knows about it and nobody talks about it," wrote Milton 
Bracker in the New York Times. 

By the end of the year speculation about the Galindez affair had faded. 
So entangled were the threads of conspiracy that they might never have 
been disengaged except for another disappearance this time in Ciudad 
Trujillo. On December 3, 1956, a co-pilot of the Trujillo-owned Com- 
pania Dominicana de Aviaddn, Gerald Lester ("Gerry") Murphy, 23, 
of Eugene, Oregon, was done to death in the Dominican capital. 

This time to the normal political outcry Were added some strong 
voices. Murphy's parents, a determined couple who would not be black- 
mailed or frightened by Trujillo, and two of the more courageous liberal 
legislators now in the American Congress Senator Wayne Morse and 
Representative Charlos O. Porter, both from Murphy's home state of 
Oregon. At last the United States State Department joined the chorus to press 
Dominican authorities for an explanation. 

At the beginning no one thought there was any direct link between the 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 318 

disappearance of the young American flyer in the Dominican Republic 
and the kidnapping of Dr. de Galindez in the city of New York. Not long 
afterwards the relation was established by Dominican exiles. In a letter 
addressed to both Senator Morse and Congressman Porter, Vanguardia 
Revolucionaria Dominicana, whose main listening post is in San Juan, 
Puerto Rico, called their attention to the fact that Dominicans believed 
that Murphy was murdered because he knew too much about the disap- 
pearance of de Galindez. 

The Dominican authorities promptly produced an explanation of the 
Murphy disappearance. The explanation, according to Life, was "shock- 
ing and ingenious but unconvincing." 

As in the Barnes case, the Benefactor quickly looked around for a 
scapegoat willing to assume the blame for the murder of a foreign citizen* 
For a time he thought he had his man in Octavio Antonio de la Maza, a 
CDA pilot himself. Had de la Maza gone along with the Generalissimo's 
scheme, all would have come out dandy. Brought to trial before a not too 
prying trujillista judge, de la Maza would plead guilty to the murder of 
Murphy and explain that death happened quite accidentally and in self- 
defense during a drunken cliffside brawl. In his own defense de la Maza 
would plead he was repelling the homosexual advances of the young flyer. 

However, Trujillo made a slight miscalculation. De la Maza, an adven- 
turous, hot-headed man of personal courage, refused to play ball to the 
extent of incriminating himself with the murder of an American citizen* 
This was totally unforeseen, since de la Maza had always been a faithful 
soldier who had done "special services" (which sometimes include mur- 
der) for the regime and who, more important, owed a debt of gratitude to 
the Benefactor for setting him free after the alleged self-defense killing of 
another man, the notorious Luis Bernardino (Felix's brother), during a 
drunken fracas in London, where both men were attached to the Do- 
minican embassy as part of its diplomatic personnel. 

Confronted with the refusal of de la Maza, Trujillo found himself in 
need of an alternate story. De la Maza had already been arrested as the 
author of Murphy's murder, so it was too late to look for another scape- 
goat. A new story had to be made up hurriedly and sure enough he came 
out with one good enough to kill, as we shall see, two birds with one 
stone. The Benefactor, through his aides, announced that Murphy had died 
in shark-infested waters after a quarrel with de la Maza. The latter after 
his arrest was so filled with remorse he hanged himself from a shower pipe 
in his cell, leaving a note addressed to his wife in which he admitted guilt 
for killing Murphy. De la Maza reportedly used his mosquito netting for 
the macabre task. 

The Generalissimo had the hope that this version would satisfy the 
never-too-curious American Department of State, which several times be- 


fore had been placated with formal excuses. He did not count, however, 
on a few factors beyond his control. For instance, the fact that Murphy 
had a courageous American fiancee with whom he had talked at great 
length. This, coupled with the circumstance that the state of Oregon had 
two representatives who would take no nonsense from a small-time Carib- 
bean dictator, proved to be the unexpected break the police investigators 
always pray for. 

As Life put it, "Murphy, just before he disappeared, had done a lot of 
talking, and some writing, about a curious assignment he had once under- 
taken. Now, as a result of what he said, it was possible to piece together a 
theory connecting Galindez' case, Murphy's disappearance and De la 
Maza's death. Galindez had apparently been kidnapped and drugged in a 
New York subway and hauled in an ambulance to an airport near the city. 
Hired by the Dominicans, Murphy had been waiting with a plane. Galin- 
dez was placed aboard and Murphy flew him to Montecristi in the Do- 
minican Republic.'' 

U.S. officials were by now suspicious that both de Galindez and Murphy 
had been done away with by Trujillo's thugs. The Department of State 
demanded an explanation. 

As a result of a combination of the State Department's published notes 
to the Dominican Government, the trial of a Trujillo informer and the 
extraordinary achievements of American journalistic ingenuity, it is now 
possible to put together, in bits and pieces, the inside story of what hap- 
pened to de Galindez and Murphy. 

Bom in Minot, North Dakota, in My 1933 and brought up in Oregon, 
Gerry Murphy was a clean-cut American boy with a good record. His 
parents considered him a sober, honest, conscientious, dutiful son* His 
former employers had only words of praise. In his childhood days he 
filled his room with airplane books and models and spent every spare mo- 
ment studying the art of flying, He soloed at 16, and at 23 had earned a 
commercial license with instrument, instructor and mechanic ratings. Ho 
worked as a flight instructor and aeronautical draftsman. 

Trujillo is a master corrupter and he and his hoods know that every 
man has a price or a weakness or both. Murphy had a great weakness, 
One thing had been denied him good eyesight. Because of poor eye- 
sight he had been turned down by the armed services and by the airlines. 
And the thing he wanted most in life was to fly. 

Prompted by his passion for flying, Murphy moved to Florida some- 
time in 1955. He took a job as draftsman and rented a room on SW 9th 
Street, What he was making as a draftsman wasn't much and he tried to 
get a pilot's job with Riddle Airlines. He did not make the grade with 
Riddle but began flying occasional charter jobs for Tom Guthrie's air 
taxi service. 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 320 

About that time Murphy made a couple of new friends. Murphy met 
the American-educated, aristocratic Colonel Salvador Cobian Parra, 
then chief of the extremely efficient Dominican security service. It is 
common knowledge now that Cobian had been sent to Miami by the 
Benefactor himself to scout for a specific kind of talent. They were, at 
the time, very much in need of a capable airman willing to do a job for pay. 
The man had to be either a seasoned operator who would not ask many 
questions or a naive soul ready to fall for the tempting offers of wealth and 
welfare in the bountiful realm of "the Chief." Apparently they settled for 
the latter alternative. Either by design or by accident Gerry Murphy turned 
out to be their man. 

After a few preliminary meetings, Colonel Cobian introduced Murphy to 
a tall, slender, cold-eyed, feline, amusingly cynical chap who gave his name 
as Arthur. As Murphy later learned, he had met West Point graduate (class 
1943) brigadier general Arturo R. Espaillat, better known to his fellow 
officers as "the Yellow Cat." As Under Secretary of the Armed Forces, 
Espaillat was Cobian's boss. It is probable that Murphy met other Domini- 
cans as well as another "fine young man" and former FBI and CIA agent, 
Washington attorney John Joseph Frank, then employed as a sort of errand 
boy, bodyguard, security adviser and legal counselor for the Benefactor. 

It is almost impossible to ascertain how many times Murphy met with his 
new, fun-loving, night clubbing, Dominican friends. At this writing Espaillat 
is the only man still alive who might tell, but it is very doubtful that he will 
come to the U. S. to talk truthfully. 

After meeting Cobian and Espaillat, Murphy made several trips to the 
Dominican Republic, where the red carpet was rolled out. From the expen- 
sive hotel Jaragua, Gerry sent home a post-card: "Not a bad place to stay 
when the local government is paying the bill." 

Sometime during one of these trips Murphy was told about the reasons 
for the sudden trufilUsta love of him. Was he told the truth and nothing butt 
the truth, or was he given a sugar-coated pill with double-talk? Murphy 
knew that the mysterious operation he was about to perform involved some- 
thing beyond simple transportation back to his home-land of a "wealthy 
invalid." Perhaps he did not know the identity of his "patient" or if he knew 
it, it did not mean anything to him at the outset. As Andrew St. George put 
it, "There is the damning evidence of Gerry's behavior in preparing for the 
fatal flight of March 12: he lied and falsified entries about it not once but a 
dozen times." 

In early March, 1956, Murphy told friends in Miami he had a good 
charter proposition and was going to take it. He then reached a close friend, 
Air Force Sergeant Harold L. French, an airplane mechanic, then on 30-day 
leave. He asked his friend to wait for him in Washington since he would 
need his help for a job. 


On March 4, Gerry picked up French at the Washington National Air- 
port. The next day they went by train to Elizabeth, N. J., and took a cab 
to Linden, where they registered at the Rahway Tourist Motel, remaining 
until March 11. 

Shortly after noon on March 6, French and Murphy went to the Linden 
airport, where Murphy introduced French to a man named Kane. (At the 
subsequent trial of John J. Frank, French identified the defendant as the 
man introduced to him as "Kane".) He also met two unidentified Domini- 
can citizens, whose names he later forgot. However, at the Frank trial in 
which he was a witness for the prosecution French did identify the other 
two men by pictures introduced in evidence by Justice Department Attor- 
ney William C. Hundley. (Earlier in the trial the men in the pictures had 
been identified by the author of this book as Maj. Gen. Arturo R. Espaillat 
and Felix W. Bernardino, both former Dominican consul generals in New 
York City.) Apparently Espaillat and Bernardino were there to oversee the 

* We made arrangements to lease an aircraft, which we subsequently did," 
French said. "It was a surplus model military plane, a twin-engine Beech 
aircraft." After giving the plane's number as N68100, French identified a 
photo of it. 

They rented the plane from an aircraft sales and rental company called 
Trade-Ayer, owned by Anthony J. Ming. When closing the operation Mur- 
phy said he wanted the plane to take some businessmen on air junkets. Later 
one of the officers of the charter company recalled that pilot Murphy paid 
$800 cash. When he got his receipt, Murphy requested it be made to the 
man who had supplied the money a man named John Kane. 

After renting the plane French helped Murphy to add extra fuel tanks in 
the forward end of the passenger cabin to increase the range from 800-900 
miles to 1,400 miles. Murphy asked Sergeant French to be his co-pilot, but 
the latter refused. 

Two days later, on March 8, French and Murphy met "Kane" in the lobby 
of Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan. Murphy sent French away while he 
had a private conversation with Frank. They were also in constant tele- 
phonic communication. At the Frank trial the prosecution produced toll 
slips for March 4, 6, 7 to prove Frank had conversed with Murphy. 

On March 9 Gerry made a test flight and took off for Newark the follow- 
ing day, landing at 5:50 P.M. From there Murphy hopped over to Staten 
Island in the late afternoon of March 10. While there, the extra tanks were 
installed in the cabin. An airport worker who asked where the plane was 
going received a flat reply: "Azores." 

On March 12 at 9:44 A.M. Murphy took off. from Newark Airport,, after 
listing bis destination as Miami. Instead of flying south, he detoured and 
flew east, bringing his plane down at Zahn's Airport at Amityville, L. L, at 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 322 

exactly 10:30 A.M. He announced his departure time as a half hour later 
but did not leave. French saw Murphy there again shortly after noon. He 
helped Gerry to load the plane with blankets, a pistol, "sundry small hand 
tools" and "survival equipment." 

There Murphy waited all day and far into the night until an ambulance 
arrived. (That night de Galindez disappeared.) A stretcher case was trans- 
ferred from the ambulance to Murphy's waiting plane. There were only two 
witnesses to the arrival of the ambulance: Murphy and the night watchman, 
Anthony Frevele. After the "patient" was put on board a heavy-shouldered, 
felt-hatted figure climbed into the plane after Murphy. At least one other 
person boarded the plane, perhaps two. One of them is known to have been 
Murphy's co-pilot Octavio Antonio de la Maza. The night watchman told 
his relief watchman and later his daughter that he had seen an ambulance 
come up and a man who "could not move a muscle" put into a wheel chair 
and carried into the plane. The airport manager, Edwin Lyons, also vouched 
for the fact that the watchman told that story. 1 

The next episode is a hitherto unexplained mystery. Murphy and N68100 
were next seen early on the morning of March 13 at Miami's Tamiami Air- 
port. Murphy landed there ostensibly to refuel. Airport attendants told him 
that it was too early the gas pumps were not open. So he took off for 
Lantana Airport near West Palm Beach. The oddity of the maneuver lay 
in the fact, according to reporter Fred L Cook, that it wasn't necessary. 
"Arrangements had been made days in advance, by a mysterious telephone 
call from New York, for Murphy to refuel at Lantana early on the morning 
of March 13." 

In Lantana Murphy's plane was refueled by a mechanic named Donald 
Jackson, who a few months later told his story anonymously in a CB.S. 
broadcast. He also talked with the authorities. "The important thing was," 
wrote Herbert Matthews in the New York Times, "that in order to fill the 
additional gas tanks which had been installed inside the passenger's part of 
the plane he had to take his hose into the Beechcraft. He said he saw an 
unconscious or lifeless body on a stretcher in the plane and noted a *peculiat 
stench' which he thought was indicative of a drug." 

When the case of John J. Frank was ready to be brought to trial the 
Government subpoenaed Jackson to appear in court and take the stand on 
November 12, 1957, the day the trial was to begin, "However/* writes 

l Frevele's testimony would have been of the greatest importance for a definite 
clarification of the case. Unfortunately he died of a coronary thrombosis !n Sep- 
tember, 1956, although, according to Rep. Porter, he was "57 years old and had a 
history of good health." Since what they may say is considered hearsay, and there- 
fore inadmissible as court room evidence, neither the other watchman nor Frvele*s 
daughter could testify at a triaL Moreover, Frevele's daughter has already changed 
her original testimony. In an affidavit for the group of Trujillo-paid investigators 
headed by the noted attorney Morris Ernst she now asserts that the "stretcher case** 
incident did not occur until long after March 12* 1956* 


Matthews, "it had to be postponed until Nov. 18 and he was so notified. 
On Nov. 12, Jackson left in a private plane with his father for a two-day 
trip to Texas. The plane crashed and they were both killed. There were no 
witnesses. Could there have been any foul play? The F.B.I. has no jurisdic- 
tion to investigate such cases which are the concern of the states." 2 

At Lantana Murphy paid cash for $95 worth of gas (thus avoiding sign- 
ing the gas slip) and gave a $15 tip, Then with his strange cargo on board 
he took off, destination unknown. 

After its investigation, Life asserted that Gerry took off for Montecristi 
airport on the Dominican northwestern coast, Representative Charles O. 
Porter has repeatedly stated the same belief. 

On the other hand, Dominican government sources assert that "it would 
be very hard to prove" that the plane went to their country. From General 
Espaillat himself came a seemingly convincing denial of this angle of the 
story. In a letter to Life, Espaillat, who had already assumed office as Do- 
minican Consul General in New York s stated that "we checked to see if a 
plane had filed its flight plan at any airfield from which it could take off 
from the United States for the Dominican Republic. No such flight plan was 

Espaillat also pointed out that "since the U.S. is protected by an airtight 
radar screen and also an alert fighter-plane command, it would be impossi- 
ble for an unidentified plane to have spirited Galindez from an American 
airport." Life did some checking of its own. It found out that "private planes 
flying from Florida do not have to file. The U.S. checks very few outbound 
aircraft from Florida." 

At the Frank trial something resembling concrete evidence came up. While 
Sergeant French was at Linden with Murphy, the latter made a map in the 
sergeant's presence drawing a line on it from New York to Miami to end of 
the journey the Dominican Republic. 

It is almost impossible to give any account of what occurred upon arrival 
of Murphy's plane in Trujillo-dominated territory. 

Frances R. Grant, Secretary General of the Inter-American Association 
for Democracy and Freedom, in a press conference held in September 1957 
said she had received new details on the case from exile sources. Miss Grant 
reported that her information was that Dr. de Galindez had been "lured 

2 It has been established that the Jacksons were accompanied by a friend on the 
fateful plane trip. The roan also died in the crash. 

8 The appointment of Espaillat to fulfill a diplomatic assignment in the United 
States right in the wake of the Galindez disappearance is considered one of the most 
daring maneuvers of the Trujillo regime. It was apparently thought that the presence 
of the General right at the center of the storm would either sidetrack the police 
investigation or would erase any suspicions that might have fallen on the new Consul. 
It also served a practical purpose: Espaillat could keep a watchful eye on those 
parties involved in the kidnapping who had stayed out of Dominican jurisdiction. 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 324 

from his home, drugged and taken by automobile to an airport" where 
Gerald L. Murphy was waiting. 

Upon arrival at Montecristi, said Miss Grant, Dr. de Galindez was trans- 
ferred to another plane piloted by de la Maza. From another source I have 
learned that the transfer was thought necessary in order not to take the 
Beechcraft to Ciudad Trujillo airport where its presence might be noted by 
too many people, including members of the American embassy. 

Miss Grant asserted that de Galindez was later taken to the Hacienda 
Fundacion, Trujillo's ranch in San Cristobal. There, so the story goes, Tru- 
jillo himself is said to have struck the first blow in Dr. Galindez' face and 
then to have turned the Basque over to military men who finished the job. 
There is no direct evidence to support this version, but every time an ac- 
count of what occurred to de Galindez is smuggled out, it coincides with it. 

The trip down to the Dominican Republic was the end of a phase of young 
Murphy's life and the beginning of another. Two weeks later he returned 
the plane. At Guthrie's he told a number of stories. He said he had flown a 
"wealthy invalid" from New York to Tampa. He recounted how he had had 
extra tanks installed for the flight. And, still more significant, he was sud- 
denly affluent "He was so broke when he went to work for me," said Guthrie 
to Life, "that he had sold his car for money to eat." Now he bought and 
paid cash for a 1956 Dodge convertible, explaining that his father had sold 
property which he had not. 

The next month Murphy told Guthrie that one of his charter plane 
acquaintances had fixed him up with a job as a pilot for the Campania Do- 
minicana de Aviacidn, in Ciudad Trujillo. "When Gerry reported to CD A, 
in Ciudad Trujillo," reported Life, "George Burrie, then general manager, 
refused him a captaincy because he was short on experience. His status was 
settled by Dictator Trujillo, who ordered that Gerry be hired as co-pilot." 
After that Murphy bragged to friends that he could have "anything I want 
down there." As a co-pilot for the Dominican airline his salary was $350 a 
month, but to friends he confided he was making $800 a month plus "over- 
time." In addition to his Dodge, which he kept in Miami, Gerry bought a 
British Ford car in Ciudad Trujillo. He kept apartments in both Miami and 
the Dominican capital. 

Shortly afterwards he met pretty, petite brunette Celia (Sally) Caire, of 
Wichita, Kans., a Pan American World Airways stewaidess. In September 
they were engaged and made plans to be married January 10, 1957. To 
Celia, Gerry made a number of interesting confidences. Once she queried 
him about his heavy spending in Miami night spots just after they became 
engaged. "He told me he was working part-time for Trujillo and got extra 
pay for that. He did little favors for them when they needed him." 

Miss Cake said later that Murphy told her of a few of these "little favors." 
In one case, she asserted, her fiance* had flown $30,000 to Havana to 


"finance a revolution." He told her he received $1,000. She said also that 
Murphy had flown to Havana a few weeks later in November, 1956, aboard 
the plane she was serving as a stewardess. His purpose, according to her, 
was to photograph an airfield to be used in the future for landing a C-46. 
On still another mission for the Trujillo forces, Murphy had told her of going 
to Mexico City and locating a man. "He told me he knew the seriousness 
of what he was doing," she said. "I warned him he could lose his citizen- 
ship if they found out what he was doing, but he assured me he wouldn't 
have anything to do with homicide." 

Andrew St. George rooted out a number of interesting facts. In an article 
in the October 1957 issue of Real, St. George wrote: "Gerry traveled to 
Havana, Cuba, with a suitcase containing $30,000, a few charges of a secret 
plastic explosive called hexite (kneaded inside some large hard rolls), and a 
set of glass time fuses resembling oven thermometers. He delivered these 
goodies to a fellow pilot, trusted Trujillo contact and underground revolu- 
tionary leader: 31-year old Calixto Sanchez White, secretary general of the 
Air Worker's Union in Cuba." 

Some ten days later, Colonel Antonio Blanco Rico, chief of the SIM, the 
Cuban military intelligence, was murdered. One of the people pinpointed by 
the Cuban police as having made arrangements for the killing was Murphy's 
contact Calixto Sanchez. 

There was also a plot to bomb the Cuban Presidential Palace in order to 
kill General Fulgencio Batista, with whom Trujillo had a running feud at 
the time. Murphy balked. It seems his refusal to carry through the assign- 
ment had something to do with his eventual death. Later Trujillo himself 
changed his mind about Batista and formed an alliance with the Cuban 
strong man; by then Murphy was dead. Calixto Sanchez lived to see the 
peace treaty but a few months later was killed supposedly leading a revolu- 
tionary attempt against Batista. 

It seems that after Miss Caire learned the true nature of Murphy's em- 
ployment she kept a steady pressure upon him, begging him to get out of 
the Dominican Republic and look for work in the United States. It might 
be that the sudden death of his first Dominican friend, Colonel Cobian, 
brought him to his senses. Upon hearing the news, Murphy said: "My God! 
They've killed my protector." In November he notified Sally he was resign- 
ing his CDA's job. On November 17 he wrote home that his stay on the 
island had "served its purpose" and he was coining back to the United States. 

Murphy, according to his fiancee, returned to the Dominican Republic 
on December 2, despite her protests. He went back to sell his possessions 
and speak to Trujillo about a business venture. He was trying to sell the 
Benefactor a plan for using laminated identification cards to be carried by 
all Dominican citizens. He hoped to sell them to Trujillo for 40 cents and 
"the Chief would resell them to the Government for $1* 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 326 

On December 3, he placed an ad in El Caribe offering his car and furni- 
ture for sale. That afternoon he saw Miss Caire at the airport, during the 
stop-over of her flight at Ciudad Trujillo, and told her he had a 5 P.M. date 
at the dictator's palace, She begged him to get out but he wouldn't listen. 
Miss Caire was afraid because she knew Murphy had blabbed about his 
participation in the de Galindez affair to several friends. According to her, 
Murphy had been restricted twice to Ciudad Trujillo because American 
authorities were investigating the disappearance, 

Next morning, Dec. 4, the Dominican police found Gerry's Ford aban- 
doned on a cliff near the city's slaughterhouse. The Dominican police re- 
portedly searched the city and dragged the bay but found no trace of Murphy. 
"Since slaughterhouse offal is dumped in the bay, the water swarms with 
sharks," commented Life. 

Murphy was an American citizen and U.S. Ambassador William T. 
Pheiffer could not close his eyes at his disappearance. The American Em- 
bassy, however, waited until the 6th and then requested the Dominican police 
to make a search for Murphy. The Embassy informed the Department of 
State by telegram of Murphy's disappearance, and this information was 
transmitted, Dec. 7, to his parents at Eugene, Oregon. 

The same day the Embassy also sent to the Department of State informa- 
tion concerning Murphy's activities in the Dominican Republic. Upon the 
basis of this information, the Office of Security of the department entered 
the case and communicated the information to the Department of Justice 
and other United States investigative agencies. 

On December 10 Dominican police gave the Embassy a first report dated 
two days before. It stated that Murphy's car had been found early on De- 
cember 4, abandoned off the highway near the sea. Presuming it to have 
been stolen, the police had sent a notice to Murphy's address requesting that 
the car be picked up. When it was established that Murphy had not re- 
turned home by Dec. 6, the car was towed to police headquarters and an 
intensive search began, the police report stated. 

On Dec. 11, according to the State Department, based on information 
received from the U.S. Embassy in Ciudad Trujillo, security officers of the 
department interviewed Murphy's fiancee, Sally Caire, in Miami. On Dec. 15 
American Ambassador William T. Pheiffer told Secretary of State Without 
Portfolio Manuel de Moya, Attorney General Francisco Elpidio Beras and 
Chief of Police Col, Antonio Hart Dottiba that the United States took a "very 
serious view" of the case. He was assured that "the most detailed investiga- 
tion possible" would be carried out by Dominican authorities. 

On the afternoon of December 17, U.S. Consul Harry Lofton notified 
Attorney General Beras that, under instructions from Ambassador William 
T. Pheiffer, he was passing on "the information that bad blood existed be- 


tween Murphy and Octavio de la Maza of CDA, and de la Maza should be 

De la Maza was arrested, interrogated and according to a trujillista mouth- 
piece "detained when he was totally unable to account for Ms movements 
during the evening of Murphy's disappearance." Where and how Ambassa- 
dor Pheiffer obtained this piece of information has never been revealed. 

Ever since the fact that de la Maza's arrest was prompted by information 
supplied by the American embassy has been adroitly used by the trujillista 
propaganda. The Generalissimo told an American correspondent he did not 
understand all the fuss over de la Maza's being framed, since the pilot had 
been arrested "at the request of the American embassy." 

Now, after the American diplomatic representative, unwittingly, had 
served so well their purposes, the Dominican police "confirmed," with the 
help of the chief pilot of CDA ? Ernest Charles Haeger, as well as de la Maza's 
relatives, that the two fliers were bitter enemies. Furthermore, as the Attor- 
ney General put it in a press statement for foreign consumption exclusively, 
the U.S. Charge d'Affakes in Ciudad Trujillo "was present when these per- 
sons were interrogated and (when they) reiterated bad blood existed between 
Murphy and de la Maza." 

Prior to his detention de la Maza appeared to have had an inkling of 
tilings to come. Either he had been already approached with a proposal to 
play the part of scapegoat Trujillo had assigned him, or his participation in 
the de Galindez kidnapping made him uncomfortable now that his partners 
in crime were being killed or had been warned by a friend. He seemingly 
knew he was slated to play a role for which he did not want to be cast. 
People who saw him in those days say he was restless and looked worried. 
He was well aware that it was impossible for him to escape Trujillo and, 
therefore, there was nothing much he could do. The flyer sought at least to 
place bis aging father outside the reach of the Benefactor's strong arm. On 
December 6 he showed up at the American embassy and applied for U.S. 
visas for both his father and sister, giving as a reason his father needed 
medical treatment. The visas were granted and his relatives made the trip 
but later returned to the Dominican Republic. 

In a statement to the New York Times, Miss Frances R. Grant said that on 
the occasion of his visit to the embassy de la Maza had furnished informa- 
tion to American diplomatic officers concerning the GaUndez-Murphy case. 
The State Department, however, denied this. It reported that de la Maza 
did not supply information on de Galindez or Murphy's disappearances. 

On December 17 Attorney General Beras was at the American embassy 
discussing the case, when Murphy's father and Miss Caire called at the 
Ambassador's office. They had come to Ciudad Trujillo, they said, to find 
out whatever they could. There they talked to the Attorney General and 
later were informed of all developments in the case to date by Embassy 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 328 

officers. They also saw several Dominican high, officials, who told them 
nothing. Instead they were interrogated persistently about what Gerry might 
have told them of his activities. 

A war of nerves was launched the moment the couple set foot on Domini- 
can soil, which was to be continued throughout their stay. They found them- 
selves shadowed by plain clothesmen. While they packed Gerry's belongings 
they were interrupted by mysterious callers who would say nothing. Never- 
theless they managed to keep their minds open. One thing they noticed was 
that Murphy's briefcase was missing. It had contained, as Miss Caire knew, 
his insurance policy, bank stubs and statements and other personal records. 
Prior to their arrival police had barred all access to the apartment. A report 
of the police search and sealing of Murphy's apartment was later provided 
by Dominican authorities to the American embassy. 

After four days the American embassy advised Mr. Murphy and Miss 
Caire to leave the country for their safety's sake. When she spoke on the 
CBS radio program about the case, Miss Caire said that American Ambas- 
sador Pheiffer gave them a Marine guard and told them to get out fast be- 
cause "this man," meaning Trujillo, "is capable of anything." Following the 
CBS broadcast Pheiffer, no longer ambassador, denied saying this. 

Even after they got back to Miami, U.S. officials warned Sally not to stay 
there because the town was "full of Dominicans." Rep, Porter later cited 
Miss Caire as saying that she had been forced to quit her stewardess job 
because PAA officials said it would be too dangerous for her to continue 
because of possible repercussions of the case. She told Edward R. Murrow, 
over the CBS network, how she always looked in all directions before cross- 
ing any of her home town streets in the state of Kansas. 

On December 20 the American Embassy sent a note to the Dominican 
Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressing its concern over the still-unresolved 
disappearance of Murphy. On December 31 the Embassy was told that in- 
quiries "are taking place with the rapidity and zeal required" and that, when 
complete, a copy of the police report would be furnished. 

It was up to the Dominicans to produce a solution. Apparently all the 
delay had been occasioned because the police had not lost all hopes of con- 
vincing de la Maza he should cooperate by taking publicly the blame for the 
crime when brought to trial. De la Maza remained adamant in his refusal. 
Finally they despaired of obtaining de la Maza's cooperation and took the 
only road open to them under the circumstances. 

At noon on January 7, 1957, the American Charg6 d' Affaires, Richard 
Stephens, was informed by the Dominican Attorney General that de la Maza 
had hanged himself with a piece of mosquito netting tied around a shower 
pipe in his jaU cell, at around 4 o'clock that morning. The Charg6 was shown 
what the Dominican authorities claimed was de la Maza's suicide note and 
given a typewritten copy. 


Addressed to de la Maza's wife, the note claimed the Dominican pilot 
had made no confession of any kind to the Dominican police and that he 
was taking "this fatal decision because something very grave happened which 
only you should know." 

The note said that a few nights before "an old companion of mine from 
the company," Murphy, had invited him to have some drinks in a place 
beside the sea. While there, Murphy had made homosexual advances to 
de la Maza. The Dominican flyer rejected Murphy's advances and during 
the ensuing struggle Murphy fell into the sea and could not be saved. "For 
this reason remorse is killing me and that is why I am putting an end to 
my life." 

In addition to the inevitable charge of homosexuality, the note contained 
other instances of the Benefactor's personal style of vilification of fallen ad- 
versaries. It said that "he (Murphy) began to reproach me and insult me 
telling me that we Dominicans were uneducated brutes and that the person- 
nel of the Dominican airlines were no good. You know that this American 
left there because he was a rumor monger and a traitor . . ." 

De la Maza's body was transported for burial to his home town of Moca, 
more than one hundred miles north of Ciudad Trujillo. There went two 
members of the personnel of the American Embassy who, probably without 
the knowledge of the police, were allowed to look at the flyer's body. A few 
months later a U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Report cited the 
two officers as having seen what "looked like a wound" on de la Maza's left 
side, a little above the hip. 

This fact, coupled with a number of absurdities in the note, deepened the 
suspicions of the Embassy officers. A few questions needed clarification. For 
instance, nothing in Murphy's record was found to substantiate de la Maza's 
charges of homosexuality. Moreover, it seemed absurd for de la Maza, after 
denying everything to the police, to commit suicide and leave the confession 
of something he considered so grave that only his wife should know in a 
place where he knew Dominican authorities would be the first to find it. 

Openly skeptical, Stephens visited, on January 8, the cell where de la Maza 
allegedly had hanged himself. What happened there outraged the local au- 
thorities to such an extent that the Attorney General filed a formal com- 
plaint that was channeled to the American State Department. Reported 
Beras: "He (Mr. Stephens) assumed an offensive attitude that could not but 
hurt my sensitivity. I did not then protest, in order to avoid being blamed 
for breaking the cooperation extreme cooperation in which we have 
conducted the investigations . . . Several times the charge d'affaires with Ms 
own hands exerted pressure on the arm of the shower in which the body of 
de la Maza was found . . . presumably to prove the resistance to the weight 
of a normal man. This was not all. Mr. Stephens took the noose of cloth 
with which de la Maza had hanged himself and after pulling strongly on it 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 330 

... he put it round his neck. All of which no doubt implied a suspicion of 
the veracity and seriousness of the Dominican authorities." 

On that same day the Dominican people were fed the first of the only 
two stories ever printed by the local press on the Murphy case. It was a terse 
Attorney General's communique giving an account of de la Maza's suicide 
and repeating all that had been told privately to the American embassy. 

On January 16 a serious development took effect Stephens called on the 
Minister of Foreign Affairs to deliver a note recalling the Dominican note 
of December 31 which promised a copy of the Dominican police report 
then under preparation. He also asked for the "fullest possible" report from 
the Dominican authorities on Murphy's activities in the Dominican Repub- 
lic which might shed light on a motive for his disappearance. 

Still more important, the note stated that the United States Government 
could not, on the basis of information available, accept the Dominican Gov- 
ernment's position that Murphy's disappearance was solved by de la, Maza's 

Repercussions were being heard for the first time in Congress, where 
Trujillo had always been careful to cultivate friends. In cooperation with 
Senator Morse, Representative Porter started an investigation of his own. 

After reading the Dominican explanation of Murphy's death Porter had 
become convinced that it was "intentionally false" and that the Dominican 
Government "was responsible for Gerry's disappearance." To express these 
opinions, he chose the occasion of his maiden speech on the floor of the 
House of Representatives on February 28. 

Porter put a few blunt questions of his own. "I have seen a photostat of 
the note," he said. "It is patently absurd. , , In order to hang himself from 
the shower fixture, de la Maza had to keep his knees flexed to keep his feet 
from touching the floor , , , I believe that the State Department and the FBI 
are no more convinced than I am of the veracity of the Dominican tale." 

Porter analyzed what he called the "stark contradictions" that leap out 
from de la Maza's alleged suicide note, Noting that de la Maza wrote 
that he had accepted an invitation to have some drinks with Murphy by the 
seaside and confronting this supposed admission of friendship (people who 
hate each other do not get drunk together) with the earlier statement about 
the existence of a bitter enmity between the two flyers, Porter asked; "If 
there had been bad blood between de la Maza and Murphy, would the two 
have gone off on a joyride on Murphy's last day on the island?" 

Porter then pointed out that "it seems absurd for de la Maza, after deny- 
ing everything to the police, to commit suicide and leave for his wife alone 
a confession which the police would necessarily be the first to find." 

As to remorse as a motive for suicide, Porter asserted that "is nothing 
short of ridiculous." He then recalled that several years before, while mili- 
tary attach6 in London, de la Maza shot to death a fellow Dominican, th 


trujillista stooge Luis Bernardino. "Saved from British justice by diplo- 
matic immunity, he escaped punishment at home on the grounds of self- 
defense. It was never noted that he was remorseful over the murder." 

Then Porter who had talked with the author of this book a few days 
earlier went on to quote me as telling him that "suicide for remorse" is one 
of the favorite methods employed by Dominican police for eliminating pris- 
oners. He stated that "from what I have been able to learn of Dominican 
jails, prisoners on admission are stripped of all their possessions. Where 
would de la Maza have gotten hold of pencil and paper? Witnesses who 
have been inside of Dominican prisons also ridicule the idea of mosquito 
netting in Dominican prison cells." 

Porter revealed that he had received evidence that the Dominican regime 
employs an expert state forger, one Alonso Alonso. "His value to Trujillo 
is clearly shown by his effrontery," wrote Porter on another occasion. "He 
(Alonso) once had the colossal nerve to forge the signature of Trujillo's wife 
on a bank check, and the only punishment he received was a slight repri- 

Porter's speech got more criticism than praise on the House floor. 

Only a single Representative, Edward A. Garmatz (D., Md.), echoed the 
call for Congressional action to insure an investigation. Mr. Garmatz in- 
ferred that establishment of the facts would serve "to put asleep the seem- 
ingly fantastic stories which of late have been abroad." 

At one point Porter was chided by Representative James G. Fulton (R., 
Pa.), for having criticized "so many people" without first giving each "the 
courtesy of an advance notice." Then he attacked the freshman from Oregon 
for criticizing a "friendly" neighbor. 

Fulton's statement prompted an angry comment by the usually restrained 
New York Times: "Just because one of the worst dictatorships in Latin 
America is pro-United States does not make it any the less of a tyranny. It 
should not be the part of the State Department or of Congressmen to curry 
favor with dictators just because they are 'friendly'." 

From all quarters doubt was being expressed about Trujillo's version of 
the murder of Murphy. Life with its circulation of nearly six million had 
contributed a great deal to awaken public interest. 

The State Department was moving faster now. On Feb. 21 the Dominican 
Ambassador to Washington was informed that the Department did not con- 
sider the Murphy case closed, The Department's position was then set forth 
in a note delivered in Ciudad Trujillo to the Dominican Government on 
March 16. 

The chilly note from Hie State Department "urgently" asked the Domini- 
can Government to reopen the case of Gerald Murphy. 

Among other things the note stated that de la Maza's "suicide note*' was, 
according to the State Department's own handwriting analysis, a forgery. 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 332 

(The Dominican Government had already supplied the American authorities 
an analysis of the note prepared by the Spanish "expert," Manuel Ferrandis 
Torres, of the University of Madrid, attesting, on the basis of comparison 
with purported specimens of de la Maza's handwriting, that the suicide note 
was genuine.) 

According to the note, the examination of documents and other evidence 
revealed "a contradiction between the report of the Dominican Attorney 
General which states that Murphy's 'political influence' in the Dominican 
Republic was the 'object of investigation without anything serious being pro- 
duced to justify it,' and other available information. Our investigations 
indicated that Murphy was well acquainted with high Dominican officials, 
among them the late Col. Salvador Cobian and Brig. Gen. Arturo R. 

With respect to Murphy's income the note said: "It would also appear 
that Murphy's income while in the Dominican Republic must not have been 
limited to the $350 per month salary which the Dominican Attorney Gen- 
eral states he earned as a copilot for the Dominican Aviation Co. (CDA). 
Our investigations have confirmed the statements made by several American 
CDA pilots to the Dominican authorities that Murphy, in the words of one 
of them, 'had more money than the rest of us' and that he owned two cars, 
one in Miami and one in Ciudad Trujillo." 

The State Department note was received by the influential Washington 
Post as a "half-step in the right direction by ending its silence on the strange 
goings-on in the Dominican Republic." 

In the meantime the Dominican authorities had been doing some spade 
work of their own and thrown a great deal more of mud. In the second and 
last mention of the Murphy murder in the Dominican press, the Attorney 
General announced officially, through another communiqu6, that on Febru- 
ary 6 in the city of Moca had been performed the autopsy of de la Maza's 
body. The necropsy had been performed, said the communiqu6 printed by 
El Caribe and La Naddn on February 8, on order of the judicial investi- 
gator "with the purpose of finally clarifying the circumstances in which the 
suicide took place." 

The autopsy, stated the Attorney General, had been directed by a Peru- 
vian physician, Dr. L R. Ravens, a Dominican government employee, in the 
presence of a large array of witnesses. One of these overseers, according to 
Beras, was Dr. William A. Morgan, prominent American physician and 
long-time friend of the Benefactor. 

The Attorney General further admitted that it had taken the step to 
establish whether the speculations on the case in foreign lands as weU as in 
"foreign circles of our own country were well founded." The communiqu6 
promised to make public the result of the autopsy as soon, as received by 
the Attorney General. It was never published. 


In February the results of an investigation conducted in the Dominican 
Republic in behalf of Rep. Porter were made public. The investigator had 
been Robert D. Abrahams, a lawyer and long-time honorary vice-consul in 
Philadelphia for the regime of Generalissimo Trujillo. 

Abrahams came back from a short trip to the Dominican Republic abso- 
lutely convinced Murphy was slain by de la Maza. On receiving Abrahams' 
findings, however, Porter insisted the former "has no convincing proof that 
Gerald Murphy is dead or that de la Maza killed him." 

In support of his conviction Abrahams cited the evidence of the findings 
of the Dominican judge who inquired into the Murphy case, plus what he 
called de la Maza's past record. 

Abrahams recalled the slaying of Luis Bernardino and said that in 1953, 
while de la Maza had been air attache at the London Embassy, he had bat- 
tled three policemen who arrested him for drunken driving. 

"Everything points to the fact that de la Maza murdered Murphy," Abra- 
hams said. Then he pointed out that the American Embassy itself had said 
there was bad blood between the two flyers. He said Murphy had refused 
to fly with de la Maza and had submitted photographs he had taken to show 
de la Maza "was improperly running his plane." The photo-taking incident 
has been recounted by Dominican sources in different ways, however. Tru- 
jillo's private lawyer, and Dominican Government's Director of Mining, Juan 
Arce Medina, in an "open letter" to Life after rejecting an allegation that 
Murphy and de la Maza were friends asserted that "CDA executives tried 
to keep them apart. But on one of their few trips together Murphy photo- 
graphed nearby mountain peaks and trees to show the low altitude of the 
aircraft over dangerous terrain. He then turned the pictures over to the oper- 
ations manager as proof that de la Maza was a reckless, irresponsible pilot." 

Arce Medina went on to assert that de la Maza did not kill Bernardino 
in a "gun battle," as Life had reported. "Is that the clearest way you can 
say de la Maza shot to death a fellow Dominican for the very same type of 
provocation that Murphy gave him? De la Maza believed that the victim, 
Bernardino, had informed their superiors of a drunken brawl de la Maza 
had with the London police. His reaction to Murphy's photo-snapping can 
be imagined. Unfortunately, Murphy did not stay away from him*" A theory 
that not only destroyed tide basis of the alleged self-defense acquittal of 
de la Maza when brought to trial for Bernardino's killing, but also suggests an 
element of premeditation which makes de la Maza appear as an unrepent- 
ant hardened criminal and runs counter to the earlier versions of the Mur- 
phy murder. 

Notwithstanding that Porter was not convinced by Abrahams' arguments 
regarding de la Maza's guilt, the parents of Murphy, upon counsel of the 
Philadelphia lawyer, acceded to filing a civil law suit in the Dominican courts 
against the so-called de la Maza estate. First papers were served late in 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 334 

February. Lawyers for the plaintiffs were Mr. Abrahams himself and a 
trustworthy high official, Herndn Cruz Ayala, who as president of the Cen- 
tral Electoral Board is the caretaker, every five years, of the unanimous 
trujillista poll returns. Strangely enough, the lawyer who represented the de- 
fendants in this suit was the author of the anti-de la Maza "open letter" to 
Life, Mr. Juan Arce Medina. 

Civil courts move their dockets exceedingly slow in the Dominican Re- 
public. Yet, in a matter of a month the Murphy family had been awarded 
a $50,000 indemnity. To dispel any idea that this was part of any cozy ar- 
rangement, Abrahams made clear that the money had been paid by Antonio 
de la Maza, on behalf of his dead brother and the latter's widow, as directed 
by the court. 

When advised of the rapid court decision (in violation of all rules of Do- 
minican civil procedure) the puzzled father of Gerry Murphy said he had 
authorized the filing of the suit at the suggestion of Mr. Abrahams, but added 
that he was not sure about accepting the money. 

Rep. Charles O. Porter said: "In my opinion, the money paid in settle* 
ment of the claim against the de la Maza estate actually came from the 
Dominican Government." 

Murphy and his wife solved their dilemma by acceptance of the check of 
$35,000 sent to them by Mr. Abrahams (representing the indemnity less 
lawyer's fees), but for a special use. The money would be put into a trust 
administered by the Murphys, their pastor, and Representative Porter. It 
was announced that it was to be used to finance further investigation into 
the death of Gerry Murphy. The Washington Post commented in an edito- 
rial entitled "Buying Silence?" that the shabby travesty of justice added "the 
ugly implication of a bribe to an already unsavory picture." Murphy's par- 
ents have never accepted, notwithstanding the law suit against de la Maza's 
estate, the Dominican Republic's official explanations. 

The Dominican Government replied to the United States note of March 16 
in three successive notes. March 29 it stated that further investigation had 
confirmed its previous view that Murphy had no more than "ordinary and 
casual contact" with Dominican officials. 

On April 4 the Dominican Government stated that additional investiga- 
tions had led its Attorney General to conclude that Murphy did not have 
large sums of money during his stay in the Dominican Republic nor did 
his income exceed his salary as a CDA copilot. 

On April 13 the Dominican Government asserted that it continued to 
regard valid the findings of the Spanish handwriting expert that the suicide 
note attributed to de la Maza was actually written by him. For the Domini- 
can Republic to accept as conclusive in this matter an opinion to the con- 
trary by agencies of a foreign power would be equivalent to abdicating its 
sovereign rights as a state! 


By the Spring of 1957 American investigative agencies had made so much 
progress that the Justice Department put the whole affair in the hands of a 
Federal Grand Jury, which since then has been developing material fur- 
nished by the FBI, the American Embassy in Ciudad Trujillo and the New 
York Police. The grand jury is still investigating intermittently and will not 
be discharged finally until June 1958. 

A large array of witnesses have testified in front of this grand jury during 
the months it has been conducting hearings in Washington. Rep. Charles 
Porter appeared voluntarily at the request of the U.S. Department of Justice. 
He suggested to the jury that it draw up an indictment against Generalis- 
simo Trujillo. However, observers presumed that Porter used the proposal 
for indictment only as a means of bringing his points against the Dominican 
dictatorship sharply before the jury. 

One of the first acts of the Grand Jury was to hand down an indictment 
charging John J. Frank, alias John Kane, with four violations of the Foreign 
Agents Registration Act. Two counts charged that Frank had taken pay- 
ments since May 1954 from the Trujillo regime for collecting information. 
The other counts charged Frank with spending or paying out money for the 
Dominican Republic in Washington and New York. Frank was immediately 
arrested and later released on $10,000 bail. 

Things were moving faster now, with the focus of attention shifting from 
the Justice Department to the State Department. On May 29 the State De- 
partment announced that it had sufficient evidence to indicate a link between 
the disappearance of Dr. Jestis de Galfndez and the missing Gerry Murphy, 
It revealed that on May 2 the Dominican Ambassador in Washington had 
been informed that as a result of an investigation into Murphy's activities 
in the United States prior to his disappearance, which still was incomplete, 
"sufficient evidence has now been uncovered to indicate that Mr. Murphy 
may have been connected with the disappearance of Dr. Jestis de Galindez 
in New York City on or about March 12, 1956, acting on behalf of or in 
association with certain Dominican and American nationals." 

The Dominican Ambassador was further informed that the name of Arturo 
R. Espaillat had repeatedly cropped up in the official American investi- 
gation. In view of official Dominican statements of willingness to cooperate 
in solving Murphy's disappearance, as well as similar personal assertions 
by General Espaillat, the United States note declared that it appeared "de- 
sirable and appropriate" that the general's diplomatic immunity be waived 
by the Dominican government "in order that he should be amenable to 
the usual and lawful procedures in matters of investigation and trial" in the 
United States. 

When the note was delivered General Espaillat had already been recalled 
from his post of Consul General in New York. On May 4, two days later, 
he left the country. Since no reply had yet been received from the Domini- 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 336 

can. Government there was nothing the American authorities could do to 
stop him from going back home. One of the biggest fish had escaped the net. 
Upon return to Santo Domingo Espaillat was promoted to the rank of major 
general and appointed Secretary of State without Portfolio. When a new 
espionage set-up was established under the name of Ministry of National 
Security, the major general was its first head. Recently however he was 
transferred to the rather obscure post of Inspector of the Navy. Some Do- 
minicans believe that one of these days he will meet with an accident. 

The New York Times hailed the announcement of the May 2 note as a 
positive step toward the solution of "one of the most sensational cases in 
the recent history of the Western Hemisphere." 

The Generalissimo chose not to state his case before the American 
justice. For a while he did not deign to answer either the May 2 note or 
two reminders that followed. When he finally got around to answer, it was 
to refuse the request to waive Espaillat's diplomatic immunity. The Do- 
minican reply to the State Department petition was that it would be "im- 
proper" for a man of Espaillat's high station in life to face a judicial 
process in the United States. 

In the middle of November, Frank was brought to trial in Washington 
before Federal District Judge James R. Kirkland and a jury of nine 
women and three men. On Monday, December 9, the jury convicted him 
of acting illegally as an agent of Generalissimo Rafael Leonidas Trujillo 
and of the Dominican Republic's government. Ten days later Judge Kirk- 
land sentenced Frank to eight months to two years on each of the four 
counts of the indictment. The court stipulated that sentences were to run 

The evidence presented during the trial threw much light upon the 
Galmdez case, while bringing out the links between Frank and Murphy 
as well as Frank and Trujillo. It was proved that one of the acts Frank 
had performed as an agent for Trujillo was part of the arrangements in- 
volved in the airplane kidnapping of Galindez. 

The testimony, however, fell short of solving the Galindez mystery, but 
this was due to the fact that its scope was limited and the prosecution 
could not go farther than proving a violation on the defendant's part of 
the Foreign Agents Registration Act. The Justice Department Lawyers 
William Hundley, who was the chief trial counsel, Plato C. Cacheris and 
John F. LaUy aided by some good work by the FBI, did a notable job 
unravelling the thick web of trujillista intrigue. 

Evidence introduced during the trial proved that Frank had been work- 
ing for Trujillo since 1954, first as a bodyguard when the dictator visited 
Spain in 1954 and again when he went to Kansas City ia 1955; then as an 
errand boy, security and legal counselor as well as investigator. Once a 
Dominican diplomatic passport was issued in his name. 


One of the witnesses revealed that early in 1955 Trujillo commissioned 
Frank to investigate a reported assassination plot. Among the supposed 
plotters under surveillance was Jesus de Galindez. For this job Frank 
hired a number of informers and billed Trujillo at $20 an hour for his 
own services; but failed to uncover any plot. The star witness was 
Murphy's friend Air Force Sergeant Harold L. French. 

Frank's trial lasted 15 days and, according to Time, "seemed pain- 
stakingly fair." The defendant got considerable help from his friends in 
the Dominican Republic. Trujillo sent two "voluntary" witnesses to take 
the stand for him. One was the "open letter" writer, Attorney Juan Arce 

After being sentenced Frank was allowed to remain free under his 
original $10,000 bond, pending an appeal. His attorney Edward L. Carey 
had asked for a suspended sentence, saying his client had been "stigma- 
tized as long as he lives." On the other hand, Prosecutor William H. 
Hundley urged a "stiff sentence." He described the defendant as perhaps 
the only person within the court's jurisdiction "who could help us solve 
the disappearance" of de Galindez and Murphy. Instead, Hundley said, 
Frank "remained silent" and "thwarted" the grand jury and the F.B.I. 
"Unless the court deals severely with him we will never be able to solve 
crimes of this kind." 

Before imposing sentence, Judge KirMand noted that he had received 
several letters on behalf of Frank. He described the defendant as "a typical 
ambitious young American" who had waited on tables to help pay his way 
through college, and had served "very honorably" in the F.B.I, and the 
Central Intelligence Agency. 

The conviction of Frank, according to the Washington Post, dealt a 
"stunning blow to the dictatorship of Generalissimo Rafael Trujillo." 

Aside from a few solid facts brought out while Frank was nailed as an 
unregistered foreign agent, the evidence in the Galindez-Murphy twin 
mystery, however overwhelming and impressive, remains circumstantial. 
Still more ominous is the fact that everyone of importance connected with 
this case (with the exception of Frank, Bernardino and Espaillat) is dead. 
Those alive do not want or are not allowed to talk. 

Although international public opinion has already rendered its verdict 
of guilty as charged regarding Trujillo, the duty of taking the twin mys- 
teries to the American tribunals still rests on the shoulders of the U.S. 
law enforcing agencies. 

They are by no means resting the case. No sooner had Frank been sen- 
tenced than the grand jury that indicted him was called back to session. 
Subpoenaed to testify was a New York private detective named Horace 
W. Schmahl. He fought unsuccessfully to get his subpoena quashed. Be- 
fore Federal District Judge Luther W. Youngdal he insisted, on December 

TRUJILLO: Little Caesar of the Caribbean 338 

18, 1957, that the grand jury doesn't want to hear from him as a witness 
but as "a potential defendant" in kidnapping and murder charges. 

In the meantime Galfndez' book has been printed in Spanish by the 
publishing house Editorial del Pacifico, of Santiago, Chile. The Era of 
Trujillo, by what has been called a ''disquieting and possible fatal irony," 
has attracted far greater attention than would ordinarily accrue to such a 
study. The kidnapping of its author has given its point much more impact. 

There is a long way still to go before the mystery is solved, if solved it 
ever is.